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Pappas Won't Air CBS' 9-11 Doc

Pappas Telecasting has joined the ranks of CBS affiliate owners who won't be airing CBS' 9/11 documentary for fear of running afoul of FCC fines for profanity.The broadcast contains unedited swearing from first responders caught in the maelstrom of Ground Zero.

CBS has said it does not expect to have any problems with the FCC over the language. The doc has aired twice before without cuts, but the FCC has changed its policy toward profanity enforcement.

Pappas VP Mike Angeleos said Thursday that KDBC/El Paso and KSWT/Yuma-El Centro will preempt the show, since it otherwise would have been contractually bound to air it unedited. Pappas also operates CBS affiliate KMEG Sioux City, Iowa, in a shared services agreement with Waitt Media.Waitt is also expected to preempt or delay the broadcast on that station.

Angeles said the company did not ask permission to edit the show given its statement that the show would air unedited, but said Pappas probably would have edited for language it CBS had said OK.

Pappas will replace the documentary, scheduled to air Sunday night, Sept. 10, with its own documentary, 9/11: Five Years Later, which includes local footage, plus footage from CBS and CNN.

The FCC has just been given permission by a court to reconsider some of its profanity rulings, but Angelos said the decision to preempt had already been made internally, "and I don't think [the court ruling] is going to change anything."

Pappas explained its decision in a release:

"The documentary 9/11 includes several instances of profane language which the Federal Communications Commission deems inappropriate for broadcast.The CBS network is not allowing KDBC or KSWT to edit out the profane language.

"Furthermore, in the current regulatory climate, stations that air network programming with indecent or profane content are subject to significant fines and the threat of license revocation.As our viewers know, Pappas Telecasting and its management have been at the forefront of regulatory efforts to eliminate profanity, indecency, and gratuitous violence from network programming, particularly during times when children may be watching.

For these reasons, we are pre-empting “9/11” Sunday evening..."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.