ABC's path to no 9/11 advertisers

The real reason the network's controversial "docudrama" is airing ad-free.

Published September 11, 2006 11:59PM (EDT)

ABC has positioned "The Path to 9/11," the highly controversial "docudrama," as a public service, showing it without commercial breaks, much as it did for "Saving Private Ryan" and NBC did for "Schindler's List." But one conservative activist with ties to the film says ABC's motives for running the film commercial-free are not as pure as the network would like people to believe.

Govindi Murty, the co-founder of the Liberty Film Festival, "a forum in the heart of Hollywood for conservative and libertarian filmmakers," has been closely linked with the film. Cyrus Nowrasteh, the film's writer, was the featured speaker at the festival in 2004, and, reportedly after receiving special access from ABC, Murty was the first to publish a review of Nowrasteh's movie. In an e-mail she sent to a listserv, later posted to, a conservative forum, Murty wrote, "'The Path to 9/11' is running with no ads or sponsors, because the left considers it so controversial and no companies have been willing to sponsor it."

ABC originally planned to show the film with "limited commercial interruption." However, the network later announced that it had decided to run it without any commercials at all. Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, told Variety last week that the network "looked at different scenarios (and) talked to possible (advertising) partners, and none of it made sense."

In an interview with Salon, Murty said that was because ABC had not found any viable options for sponsorship. Murty says she heard from sources within the network that "they did approach a number of major companies ... people who would sponsor one night, and they were unable to."

"The idea," Murty says, "that they didn't try and go out and get sponsors, which I've been hearing from the left, is just ridiculous. They made a major effort."

Murty says her sources attributed the failure to find a sponsor both to the controversy surrounding the movie and to what she described as the "substantial" price ABC was looking for from potential sponsors.

Max Blumenthal (the son of Salon columnist Sidney Blumenthal) has previously noted Murty's ties to the filmmakers. Murty has also appeared on CNN's "Situation Room," as well as Glenn Beck's show on CNN Headline News, to defend the movie.

ABC did not respond to requests for comment.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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