After the conclusion of an investigation by PBS into an episode of celebrity-family-tree-tracing show Finding Your Roots, the station has decided to postpone the third season of the show. The episode in question, #204, focused on the family history of actor Ben Affleck but kept hidden the fact that the actor had a slaveholding ancestor in his family tree.
The original discovery that the show declined to disclose this information happened as a result of an April 17 Sony email hack published on Wikileaks, which included a letter the show’s host and producer, Henry Louis Gates Jr., had written to Sony executives seeking advice after Affleck asked the show not to include mention of a slave owner in his family’s past.
According to a statement issued by PBS and WNET yesterday, the stations had not known anything about this until the leak, sparking an internal review that started the next day. They ultimately concluded that “the series co-producers violated PBS standards by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.”
PBS is postponing season three to allow for the implementation of “staffing and other process changes that will significantly enhance the ability of PBS and WETA to oversee the editorial development of each episode.” These changes include hiring a fact-checker and “independent genealogist” for the show.
Gates responded after PBS published its findings, stating, “I sincerely regret not discussing my editing rationale with our partners at PBS and WNET and I apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming.”
The fate of a fourth season of the show will hinge on whether PBS will find the show’s corrective measures up to snuff.
And if you want to see the now notorious episode #204 yourself, good luck. The station is pulling the episode from the air and online.