LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - No BlackBerry service!
The very thought is enough to strike terror in the hearts of thumb-happy Hollywood executives, who rely on the ubiquitous device as their lifeline to the business.
Visitors to the United Arab Emirates, and the burgeoning media centers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, face that grim possibility because the UAE's telecom regulator said this week that it intends to block such BlackBerry messaging services in October as e-mail and texting because it can't monitor the BlackBerry's encrypted data system.
The BlackBerry shutdown could hurt efforts to lure Hollywood to the Middle East, and would present immediate headaches for the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which kicks off October 14. Last year's fest attracted such celebrities as Hilary Swank and Demi Moore, but it could be harder to entice stars to attend this year if their BlackBerrys are rendered mute. The Dubai International Film Festival, set for December 12-19, will face a similar quandary.
International media companies would be affected as well. In November, CNN opened a production center and newsgathering hub for its Middle East operations in Abu Dhabi; Tuesday, it named Mohammed Jamjoom as its newest correspondent. Beginning this month, he will cover the UAE, Iraq and other places in the region out of Abu Dhabi.
CNN employs more than two-dozen staff at its editorial operations in the United Arab Emirates and will continue to monitor the situation surrounding BlackBerry services, a network spokesperson said.
News Corp. also is looking to increase its footprint in Abu Dhabi. Speaking at the opening of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in March, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch said his company is seeking to run its Middle East global online advertising operations out of Abu Dhabi while moving several of its satellite television channels there from Hong Kong.
The Middle East is experiencing radical change, he said at the time, adding that its media should accompany this revolution. A News Corp. spokesman declined comment on how the UAE's BB-crackdown could affect those plans.