BUMPY ROAD FOR ABC'S PATH

ABC is reportedly making edits in its upcoming miniseries The Path to 9/11 in response to numerous complaints from former members of the Clinton administration who claimed that the film included depictions of events that never happened and distortions of others that did. Today's (Friday) New York Times reported that two former Clinton aides, Bruce R. Lindsey and Douglas Band, mounted what the newspaper described as "an unusual attack" on former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean, a co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission and a consultant on the miniseries. The pair sent a letter to Kean charging that his defense of the miniseries "is destroying the bipartisan aura of the 9/11 Commission" and suggested that it was motivated by payments he had received from ABC or by his own partisan politics. Kean told the Times that he had defended the series because he thought that it would draw attention to the commission's recommendations, many of which have not been put into effect. However, Kean acknowledged that the work of the commission might be diminished by the miniseries. Meanwhile, in a letter to Disney chief Robert Iger, the Senate Democratic leadership called for the program to be canceled, saying that airing it "would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility." The New York Post reported that Clinton himself had written to ABC disputing allegations in the drama that he was so preoccupied by the Monica Lewinsky scandal that he was unable to focus his attention on terrorism. Meanwhile, in an interview on CNN, Harvey Keitel, who stars in the miniseries, expressed his own concern about some of the events depicted in it. "you cannot cross the line from a conflation of events to a distortion of the event," he remarked. "No. Where we have distorted something, we have made a mistake, and that should be corrected."

CBS'S 9/11 DOCUMENTARY GETS ALL-CLEAR

Giving a CBS documentary on the 9/11 events a new lease on life, a federal appeals court on Thursday called a temporary halt to the FCC's enforcement of its indecency rules and ordered the commission to clarify them within 60 days. More than two dozen CBS affiliates had previously indicated that they would not air the 9/11 documentary because for fear that some of the language used by rescue personnel in the film might be considered indecent under the FCC's rules and could therefore result in stiff fines. CBS had reportedly considered editing the documentary (although earlier versions had previously aired without deletions). However, it said following the court ruling on Thursday that the program will air Sunday night without edits.

COURIC'S RATINGS FALL, BUT SHE REMAINS AHEAD

On her third night anchoring the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric saw her ratings plunge from the stratosphere that they reached on Tuesday and Wednesday but remain ahead of those for the NBC and ABC newscasts. CBS said that Couric's Thursday-night edition, which featured commentator Rush Limbaugh, registered a 6.4 rating and a 13 share, down from a 9.1/17 for her Tuesday debut and a 7.0/14 on Wednesday, when she interviewed President Bush. On Thursday, CBS News president Sean McManus told Daily Variety: "I really want to see where we are a month from now. ... Our research said we could expect some modest gains once things settle in, but it's hard to predict what will happen and what viewers will watch."

MAGAZINE SAYS NBC NEWS MAD UNPRECEDENTED DEALS FOR EXPOSÉ

NBC News went to "unprecedented lengths" to secure the help of Xavier Von Erck and his Perverted Justice organization in producing its "To Catch a Predator" series for Dateline NBC, according to Radar magazine. In an article by John Cook, a former Chicago Tribune TV reporter, it was disclosed that Von Erck received "in excess of $100,000 per episode for his services" and a cut of future DVD revenue. The network has aired at least 6 "Predator" episodes, in which adults posing as sexually active teenagers lure potential predators to a home rigged with TV cameras. They are then confronted by Dateline reporter Chris Hansen, upbraided, and delivered to waiting police officers. The Radar article observed that the deal with Perverted Justice was negotiated by NBC's entertainment lawyers, not the news division's. The "Predator" series has enraged even some Dateline producers, according to the magazine. One predicted to Radar that one of the targets of the show will eventually "go home and shoot himself in the head. The Perverted Justice people are insane, and they'll do something to embarrass us." Another NBC News staffer objected to the coordinated effort between NBC, Perverted Justice, and local police in staging the stings. "Somewhere down the line, some district attorney is going to ask us for outtakes or footage from a story, and we're going to say, 'We don't do that because we don't want to be an agent of the police.' [The usual response.] And he's going to say, 'You did with "Predator."'"

VETERAN NETWORK NEWS EXEC GORDON MANNING DEAD AT 89

Former network news executive Gordon Manning, credited with instigating Walter Cronkite's 14-minute report on Watergate in 1972 and landing Mikhail Gorbachev for his first interview on U.S. television died Wednesday in Westport, CT of a heart attack at age 89. He had held the position of vice president at both CBS News and NBC News. An A.P. obituary Thursday cited a 1988 New York profile which quoted Steve Friedman, the former producer of Today and The Early Show, as saying, "Is there anybody who doesn't like him? Yeah _ the same people who think of television news as a business. Gordon thinks of it as an adventure."

Brian B.