BALTIMORE (AP) – Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. will air a documentary about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks late at night on its two CBS affiliates to avoid scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission over indecent language in the film.

Congress moved recently to increase indecency fines against broadcasters tenfold, following a crackdown by the FCC.

“We think it’s an important program, and we don’t want to deprive viewers,” said Barry Faber, general counsel for Hunt Valley-based Sinclair. “But given the uncertainty and potential level of fines, it’s simply not a risk we were willing to take.”

Sinclair owns or operates 58 stations in 36 markets around the country. Its CBS affiliates – in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Portland, Maine – will air the documentary at 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively, in their local time zones. The words used in the film are not banned by the FCC in such time slots.

Other stations do not appear to be following Sinclair’s lead. Washington-area CBS affiliate WUSA, which is owned by Gannett Co., will air the program in its original 8 p.m. tome slot, a spokesperson said.

The documentary, titled “9/11,” was produced in 2002 and has already aired more than once on most CBS stations. It drew 12 million viewers when it aired a year after the attacks.

The rough language used by firefighters in the two-hour film sparked some discussion but drew no fines from the FCC.

Faber cited the FCC’s rulings on two films that contain similar profanities: Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning World War II drama “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Blues: Godfathers and Sons,” a documentary produced by Martin Scorsese. Only the Scorsese documentary was ruled indecent, and several public television stations drew fines for airing it.

“This case probably falls somewhere between ‘Private Ryan’ and ‘The Blues,”‘ Faber said.

The maximum fines the FCC can levy for indecency now stand at $325,000, prompting caution in the TV industry.

Sinclair has a reputation for independence and a conservative political philosophy. In 2004, the company ordered its stations to air a movie attacking the military record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, but after a public backlash, it aired only portions of the film. It also sent one of its vice presidents to Iraq to find positive news stories that it said were overlooked by the mainstream media.


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