Already home to Al Jazeera, a satellite television broadcaster in Arabic and English with an international viewer base, Qatar is no stranger to the media industry. Now the country is seeking to further cement its reputation as a media centre, unveiling plans for a communications city to be built outside of Doha.
According to reports in the local press on May 20, the feasibility study for the project has been approved by state officials and a site for the development has been set aside at Lusail, 15 km north of the capital.
The project will be a joint venture between the Al Jazeera Network, which will have a 50% stake in the development, and Qatari Diar and Qatar Media, which will hold the remaining 50% equally between them. According to the plans, up to 25,000 people will be employed at the city when fully operational.
Qatar possesses a significant advantage in that it already possesses a brand name: Al Jazeera. Having started out as a regional broadcaster, it has grown into an international network, though at times a controversial one. Often criticised in the US for airing statements from groups such as Al Qaeda, the network's services have attracted a global audience. Having launched its English language channel in November 2006, the network is now looking to move into other markets, considering broadcasting in Turkish and Urdu. However, to do this it will need a massive injection of funding, and the Qatari government hopes the media city development will help provide the necessary capital for the expansion programme.
While established media centres already exist nearby, such as Dubai's Media City, officials hope the Al Jazeera name could draw news and production companies to the Qatari development, giving it a gravitas that the more entertainment-themed centres in neighbouring countries lack.
The city of Lusail is already the centre of Qatar's largest development project, Energy City Qatar, an energy-themed business centre and real estate cluster that is intended to eventually house some 200,000 people. Qatar Entertainment City, which will offer a range of leisure, retail entertainment and restaurants, is also being developed in the area.
The media city development is just the latest in Qatar's push to broaden its cultural capital. The country has placed a significant emphasis on educational reform, with several prominent US universities establishing branches in Qatar. In its most recent educational partnership, Qatar has laid the groundwork for training the next generation of media professionals, many of whom could find employment at the new city in the years to come.
In April last year, the Qatar Foundation announced it had signed an agreement with the US's Northwestern University to jointly develop media and communications courses at the foundation's Education City outside of Doha.
Under the agreement, Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism will offer students in Qatar a programme in journalism, media and marketing communications; while its School of Communication is to provide courses in media industries and technologies. Both programmes will accept their first class of students in the autumn term this year.
During a visit to the Medill school in mid-May, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the wife of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the head of the Qatar Foundation, said news organisations should spend more money on proving quality international reporting.
"I think that should be one of their priorities - to spend more on good media," she said.
Though no budget for the new media city at Lusail has yet been announced, it seems Qatar will be heeding Sheikha Mozah's message.