By Amy Ryan
Updated September 06, 2006 at 09:17 AM EDT

Next week’s ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 will be brought to you by… no one. Variety reports that the docudrama, which was to have aired with limited commercial interruption, will no air with no commercials at all. What’s more, you’ll also be able to download the whole show for free at iTunes.
Why is ABC prepared to take a $30 million bath on this project? Was it unable to find advertisers who wanted images of their product linked with a movie about a horrific topic, with no happy ending? Or did advertisers shy away from the brewing controversy over the project’s historical accuracy?

Liberal activists are urging action against the network and its advertisers over the film, which is based in part on the 9/11 Commission Report, but which purportedly goes much further than the report does in blaming the Clinton Administration for negligence and glossing over similar oversight by the Bush Administration. Certainly, this interview with Path screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh on conservative website FrontPageMag seems to confirm the assertions that the miniseries will criticize Democrats and let Republicans off the hook. Former Clinton and Bush counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has already complained about such claims in Path. ABC yanked the filmmakers’ blog over the weekend, though it’s not clear whether the network did so in response to numerous commenters’ complaints about the project’s alleged bias. (The blog was back online as of late Tuesday.) Even a U.S. Congresswoman, Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) is calling on ABC to include disclaimers about the film’s factuality when it airs next week.

I’m not really sure there’s a vast right-wing conspiracy behind Path. Would the network really spend $30 million to appease the same folks who’ll fire off their own angry letters the next time ABC News reports on global warming or Rosie O’Donnell talks up gay adoption on The View? Still, the network’s announcement that the show is airing ad-free may take the wind out of any anti-ABC activism drive. After all, how do you launch a sponsor boycott when there aren’t any sponsors?