A new company is set to start producing a local version of Sesame Street for the Arab World. The long-running American children's television programme is being produced and developed by a new company at Abu Dhabi's media hub, twofour54.
The company called Bidaya, Arabic for beginning, is focused on creating educational media content in Arabic for children in GCC states. Its first project is Iftah Ya Simsim, an Arabic adaptation of Sesame Street with localised content and storylines.
The original Iftah series was broadcast across the Arab world between 1979 and 1990. The same format is now being brought back and modernised with the help of twofour54 and the Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala, which is sponsoring Bidaya.
The television show will follow the educational workshop format of Sesame Street.
The company also plans to produce other media content to run alongside the TV series with the hope of achieving tangible educational results for children.
"Our strategy is to establish relationships with public and private institutions from across the region that have a passion for children and understand the importance of education," said Robert Knezevi, the vice president of Sesame Street International. "This initiative represents the best practices, methodologies and global experience to create local content that is unique to Sesame Street - appealing, practical, developmentally appropriate, and relevant to parents as well as children."
Bidaya will make use of twofour54's broadcasting and production facilities to create the programme and also hopes to source local talent from the media hub's creative lab.
"We are excited that the home for the new Iftah Ya Simsim will be at twofour54. Creating locally relevant, Arabic-language content for present and future generations is about realising our vision," said Noura Al Kaabi, the chief executive at twofour54. "The fact that the Bidaya team will be working closely with young, talented Emiratis and other Arabs makes the return of Iftah Ya Simsim even more special."
The show will be supported by an Educational Advisory Council, to be comprised of education experts and media professionals who will work in coordination with the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States, which has developed educational focus areas for the new Iftah Ya Simsim and related content.
"We recognise media's potential as an education tool, especially as new technologies are attracting our children's attention," said Ali Al Qarni, the bureau's director general. "Iftah Ya Simsim is one of our proud traditions."