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Cable Nets Making Programming Lineup Moves in Wake of George Floyd Protests

Continuing protests across the country sparked by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody has spawned the creation of several cable network specials and a reassessment of some shows currently on cable and streaming service lineups.

Tonight (June 10), Discovery Network channels will air the second of a two-part special Where Do We Go From Here? A Conversation Led By Oprah, featuring Oprah Winfrey as she speaks directly with a large range of African-American thought leaders, activists and artists including writer/director Ava DuVernay, actor David Oyelowo and politician/activist Stacey Abrams about systematic racism and the current state of America, according to Discovery.

“I don’t recall a moment quite like this one, because we find our nation on a precipice and true tipping point,” Winfrey said during the opening of yesterday’s episode, which was simulcast across 18 Discovery Inc.-owned networks. “Is this the moment that will finally change the country, where people recognize systemic racism for the problem and evil that it is?”

The two-day special follows on the heels of A&E’s June 8 special, The Time is Now: Race and Resolution, which aired commercial free across A+E Networks-owned A&E, History, VICE TV, Lifetime, FYI and LMN, and generated a spirited discussion surrounding systemic racism, implicit bias, economic inequality, and cases of police brutality.

Law&Crime Network last Thursday launched two daily shows -- Justice & Peace and Keeping the Peace that cover issues from the perspective of protesters and law enforcement officers respectively, according to the network.

Meanwhile, BET is planning a June 19 Presidential Forum in which both President Donald Trump and Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden have been invited to face Black America for the first time on national television to address their concerns. BET said both parties have been contacted but would not reveal if either has accepted.

Along with the content additions, some networks have also pulled shows in response to protests over Floyd’s death. Paramount Network has reportedly cancelled the reality series Cops after a more than three-decade run amid growing calls for law enforcement reform across the country.

In addition, A&E Wednesday cancelled its popular and most watched series Live P.D. -- which follows the actions of law enforcement officials in as many as eight cities. The network said in a statement: “This is a critical time in our nation’s history and we have made the decision to cease production on Live PD. Going forward, we will determine if there is a clear pathway to tell the stories of both the community and the police officers whose role it is to serve them. And with that, we will be meeting with community and civil rights leaders as well as police departments.”

Upstart streaming service HBO Max Tuesday reportedly removed the classic 1939 film Gone With The Wind after an Los Angeles Times op-ed piece by 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley criticized the Academy Award-winning film -- which takes place on an Atlanta plantation -- as one that “glorifies the antebellum south.”

Undoubtedly additional programming will be created -- and some existing content will be examined and scrutinized --as the industry and the country come to grips with continuing reaction to George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, while attempting to outline a path forward toward finding a resolution to the issues and injustices raised in its aftermath. 

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.