PBS Suspends Airing Finding Your Roots After Ben Affleck’s Controversial Episode

Published on June 25, 2015.
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The future of a show about the past is in jeopardy following an investigation into one episode surrounding new Batman star Ben Affleck.

On Wednesday, June 24, PBS announced that were delaying airing the upcoming season of their hit show about celebrities discovering information about their lineage, Finding Your Roots, after there was backlash when it was discovered that Ben Affleck had some information omitted from the show because it revealed that his ancestors were slave owners.

Not including the information because of Affleck’s stance in Hollywood is a violation of the network’s editorial standards and the omission was only found following the Sony hacks and leaked emails.

The emails revealed an exchange between the show’s executive producer, Henry Louis Gates, and Sony Pictures co-chair, Michael Lynton, where they discussed whether or not the information should be censored.

“Confidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something out one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do? Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”

Now the show has been suspended after an investigation revealed that producers violated PBS standards when they “failed to shield the creative process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect the program content.”

As a result, the show will not move forward until staffing changes are made, which include hiring an independent genealogist and fact-checker. The network has also threatened not to produce a fourth season until they are “satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which [they] can have confidence.”

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