‘Finding Your Roots’ To Return To PBS After Ben Affleck Controversy

Ben Affleck Batman
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Finding Your Roots,” the PBS celebrity-genealogy series that came under scrutiny earlier this year after revelations of producers scrubbing an episode of a reference to slave-holding ancestors in actor Ben Affleck’s family, has found a new perch on PBS winter and spring schedule.

PBS intends to launch a third season of the series starting January 5. Among the celebrities scheduled to explore their family trees are actress Julianne Moore, TV producer Shonda Rhimes actor Neil Patrick Harris and actress Julianna Margulies. “I’m confident there won’t be any problem,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS’ chief programming executive and general manger of general audience programming, in an interview.

In June, however, the future of the series, produced by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., was in doubt. PBS found itself in the awkward position of having to defend the integrity of the series, and said at the time that a third season of the program would be delayed “until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have confidence.” The network has yet to make a determination about a fourth season of the program, according to a PBS spokeswoman.

Hoppe described a new governing system for the show in which PBS and Gates had “opened up the process to make it much more of a dialogue” as producers worked to research celebrity backgrounds, she said. New levels of fact-checking had been added, she said, along with an independent genealogist. “We wanted to make sure we don’t have a situation like that again, and have done it with [Gates’] full cooperation,” said Hoppe.

Affleck’s request — and its influence on the production of the series — came to light in April, as media outlets reported on private email exchanges between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in which Gates sought Lynton’s counsel over requests by Affleck to remove a segment from the episode that mentioned that slave owners were part of his family history. Executives at PBS and WNET, the station that produced the series’ first two seasons, were not made aware of Gates’ decision to make the change.

The episode in which Affleck’s ancestry is examined was withdrawn from all forms of distribution, PBS said in June, including digital streaming and home video.

In June, Gates apologized for not informing public-broadcasting executives of his decision and indicated he was open to increase the transparency around the program’s inner workings.

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  1. In the media firestorm set off by remarks made by British Prime Minister Dave Cameron during his visit to Jamaica last month, most of the acrimony and condemnation of the P.M.’s comments and attitude towards the issue of reparations for African slavery & colonialism, came as a result of the attendant revelation that he himself has descended from the owners of slaves on the island of Jamaica, the heralded “jewel in the British crown”, and has benefited directly from the accumulated wealth and the financial compensation paid to the slave owners when slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1838

    When Affleck appeared on the PBS genealogy show Finding Your Roots, some of his ancestors were discovered to be slave owners, but subsequent, hacked Sony emails, posted publicly by WikiLeaks, revealed that Affleck successfully prevented the information from making it into the show’s final cut, convincing a somewhat reluctant executive producer, Henry Louis Gates Jr. to help in the omission.

    But Ben Affleck later issued an apology in apparent sincerity via a press release, stating that “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth”.

    These reactions and explanation from Affleck, notwithstanding the political encumbrances that may have been upon the British Prime Minister, make him seem to be a totally different person, a better mind and a “bigger man” than Mr. Dave Cameron. Furthermore, Ben Affleck has a wonderful record as a philanthropist, with one of his best known involvements with these activities being the East Congo Initiative which he co-founded in 2010, to support “Africans finding solutions for African problems” by acting as a grant maker for Congolese-led community-based organizations. The ECI, with two employees in the U.S. and twelve in the Congo, makes grants and offers capacity-building support to over twenty charities involved with helping survivors of rape and sexual violence, reintegrating child soldiers into their communities, promoting economic opportunity, increasing access to health care and education, and promoting community-level peace and reconciliation. In the ECI, Affleck would have made a very well researched and purposed selection, having made numerous trips to the region to educate himself through meetings with “academics, philanthropists, people at NGOs, people who work on the ground, survivors”.

    Read more at: https://www.modernghana.com/news/652812/1/from-isaac-to-bolt-journey-of-the-covenants-of-the.html.

  2. Shame on PBS for letting Gates’s high reputation (deserved or partly undeserved) weigh heavier with you with his shockingly dishonest behavior in bowing to the wishes of the “megastar” whom he hoped would get him into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So you post a watcher to be sure the eminent professor does not betray his duty again? Shame. Genealogy is about finding and acknowledging truth. You can’t put Skip Gates’s face on the search for historical and genealogical truth now, not honestly.
    The headline here says ‘THE BEN AFFLECK CONTROVERSY.” No, no, no. It was “THE SKIP GATES SCANDAL”or the “HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR., SCANDAL.” That’s whose name has been cheapened, not Ben Affleck’s.

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