PBS announced Wednesday that it is postponing future seasons of documentary series Finding Your Roots following an investigation that found the episode with actor Ben Affleck violated network standards.
In April, PBS and its New York WNET channel began conducting an internal review after it was discovered in emails posted on Wikileaks that Affleck requested the program not mention his slave-owning ancestors in an October episode titled “The Roots of Freedom.”
“PBS and WNET have determined 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 said in a statement Wednesday.
The scheduling of the third season, produced by WETA, of the genealogy series hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. will be delayed pending the implementation of staffing and other changes. Those include employing an additional research/fact-checker and an independent genealogist to examine all versions of episodes for accuracy, as well as deferring commitment to a fourth season until editorial standards have been sufficiently raised. In addition, PBS will withdraw the Affleck episode from distribution.
“Editorial integrity is essential to PBS. As a mission-driven media enterprise, we know that earning and keeping the trust of the American public are our most important priorities,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive and general manager, general audience programming. “The co-producers of Finding Your Roots have a strong track record of creating high-quality programming for PBS over many years. Improved editorial and production processes will ensure that all future projects will adhere to PBS’ editorial guidelines.”