CBS Pulls ‘The Activist’ After Backlash, Competition Show to Be Retooled as Documentary Special

“The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort,” network and producing partners say in a statement

The Activist CBS
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CBS is pulling the competition series “The Activist” after backlash from online activist communities, the network said Wednesday. The show will be reworked as a more straightforward documentary special, removing the competition aspect.

The show was set to premiere on Oct. 22, with a five-week run challenging a group of activitsts to “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events” with winners decided based on “online engagement, social metrics and hosts’ input.” Usher, Julianne Hough and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas were announced as hosts last week, drawing attention to the project and sparking the backlash from those who found the show’s competition format at odds with the work of activism.

CBS and producers Global Citizen and Live Nation released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing the planned changes to the show’s format and the decision to remove it from the schedule.

“‘The Activist’ was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same,” the groups said. “However, it has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”

The reimagined version of “The Activist” will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in,” the statement continued. “Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show.” Read the full statement below, as well a separate statement from Global Citizen.

The statement comes a day after Hough spoke out about the backlash, telling her Instagram followers that she had passed along concerns to “the powers that be.” “Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind,” she said, acknowledging the show’s critics.

Here are full statements from CBS, Global Citizen and Live Nation:

Variety first reported the news.