CBS’ The Activist will now air as a documentary special instead of a competition series, announced the broadcast channel on Wednesday.
The previously announced reality competition series is getting a makeover amid intense backlash. The five-week reality competition series had planned to have six activists from around the world compete to “bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment.”
The series was planned to be hosted by judges Julianne Hough, Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who were set to measure the competitors’ success based on social media engagement through digital campaigns.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, CBS announced that the show will now be retooled into a documentary special in response to the harsh criticism from activist communities on social media. It will also no longer premiere on Oct. 22 as scheduled.
“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 network and producers Live Nation and Global Citizen said in a statement.
“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 updated docuseries will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show.”
“Activists and community leaders around the world work every day, often without fanfare, to advance protections for people, communities, and our planet,” the statement concluded. “We hope that by showcasing their work we will inspire more people to become more involved in addressing the world’s most pressing issues. We look forward to highlighting the mission and lives of each of these incredible people,” read the statement.
Global Citizen also added in a separate statement, “Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts and the larger activist community — we got it wrong.”
“It is our responsibility to use this platform in the most effective way to realize change and elevate the incredible activists dedicating their lives to progress all around the world.”
A new airdate for the re-designed documentary special has not been announced yet.
The decision comes one day after Hough, 33, spoke out about criticism on Instagram, telling her followers that she was “deeply listening with an open heart and mind.”
“I heard you say there was hypocrisy in the show because at the root of activism is a fight against capitalism and the trauma that it causes so many people and that the show itself felt like a shiny capitalistic endeavor,” she wrote. “I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics and totally missed and disrespected the many activists who have been killed, assaulted and faced various abuses fighting for their causes.”
She added, “And because of this, there is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt. I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge.”