PBS is pumping the brakes on Finding Your Roots because an internal investigation has helped the broadcaster confirm that Ben Affleck convinced the show to abandon its editorial ethics and withhold the truth. PBS began the investigation after the Sony hacks revealed emails that showed Affleck asked the show to censor info linking his bloodline to a slave owner. Executives from PBS and New York’s WNET conducted the review, noting “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.” The New York Times reports that the broadcaster won’t go forward with the show’s third season until there are staffing changes, including the hiring of a fact-checker and an independent genealogist (which you think they’d want from the get-go).
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host of the show, emailed top Sony exec Michael Lynton last July to see what they should do with Affleck’s request for omission. The episode broadcast last October and did not include any references to the ancestor in question. “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,” Gates said in a statement. “[W]e have been working … to create new guidelines to increase transparency going forward.”
Variety points out that PBS also won’t commit to a fourth season “until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have confidence.”