The 41st Annual People's Choice Awards - Alternate ViewPBS is postponing the third season premiere of its genealogical series, "Finding Your Roots," after an investigation determined that actor Ben Affleck had "improper influence" over the content of an episode in which he participated.

Affleck made headlines back in April when leaked emails brought to light by last year's Sony hack revealed that the actor discovered he had slave-owning ancestors while participating in the program, and attempted to persuade producers from omitting that information from broadcast. Affleck's episode of the series aired in October, and did not feature that bit of his background.

In a statement released this week, PBS said its investigation into the matter "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."

Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor and producer of "Finding Your Roots," had emailed Sony chief Michael Lynton last year to ask for advice about Affleck's request. In a statement released in April, Gates explained that the slavery detail was omitted from the episode because he and producers "focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of [Affleck's] ancestry," including Affleck's mother's participation in the 1960s civil rights movement.

This week, Gates apologized for "not discussing my editing rationale" with PBS, and putting the network "in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming."

"I have always operated with rigorous ethical standards," Gates's statement continued. "Even so, we have been working with PBS and WETA to create new guidelines to increase transparency going forward."

Those new guidelines include the hiring of another factchecker, as well as an independent genealogist, before airing the upcoming third season of the series. PBS would not commit to renewing "Finding Your Roots" for 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," the network said in a statement.

Affleck acknowledged his mistake in a Facebook post back in April, writing, "I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed."

The Oscar winner's episode will be scrubbed from all future "Finding Your Roots" airings, including DVD release and online streaming.

[via: Variety]

Photo credit: Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

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