The Public Broadcasting Service has temporarily suspended the premiere of the third season of one of its shows and is “delaying a commitment to a fourth year until it is satisfied with improvement in the show’s editorial standards,” reports the Associated Press.
The show is “Finding Your Roots,” and the controversy “came to light last spring in hacked Sony emails published online by whistleblower site WikiLeaks,” says the AP.
As previously reported, the controversy involves pressure applied to the show’s producers by actor/director/screenwriter Ben Affleck to not reveal that one of his ancestors owned slaves. The current story says “The Associated Press examined historical documents and found that Affleck’s great-great-great-grandfather owned 24 slaves.” Affleck later apologized for pressuring the producers.
When the episode aired in October it did not mention Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor.
According to The New York Times version of this story, “In the investigation, PBS said that producers violated network standards by letting Mr. Affleck have ‘improper influence’ and ‘by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.’
“The network said that before the third season of ‘Finding Your Roots’ can broadcast, the show needs to make some staffing changes, including the addition of a fact checker and an ‘independent genealogist’ to review the show’s contents.”
According to the AP story, what was revealed in the hacked Sony emails was “an email exchange between [‘Finding Your Roots’ host and co-producer Henry Louis] Gates and Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton, [in which] Gates asks Lynton for advice on how to handle Affleck’s request.
“‘Here’s my dilemma,’ says Gates in one email, dated July 22, 2014, ‘confidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves. Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including (prolific documentary filmmaker) Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?’”