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A&E viewership tanks after network axes ‘Live PD’ amid nationwide police brutality protests

A&E Network ratings have dropped nearly 50% following the network’s announcement it would be canceling its much-loved police reality show, “Live PD.”

What’s a brief history?

The network opted to cancel the show in June amid the ongoing police brutality protests in the U.S., which were spurred on by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.

At the time of the cancellation, the network said, “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.”

What are the details?

A&E’s decision to cancel the show has had a significantly negative impact on the network.

A Friday report from The Wall Street Journal notes that the show, before its cancellation, averaged 1.9 million viewers on Friday and Saturday nights.

Now, however, during the period immediately following the network’s cancellation — June 11 through July 19 — viewership on Friday and Saturday nights was 498,000 in the key demographic of adults ages 25 to 54 years.

Just before the network announced the cancellation of the hit show, A&E’s primetime viewership was up 4%, the outlet reports, citing relevant Nielsen data.

Following the cancellation, however, A&E saw its daily viewership drop 36% when compared to the same time in 2019.

A report from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that the network had run 298 episodes since its 2016 premiere, and had 160 more episodes contracted to air.

The outlet reported that on the days leading up to the cancellation, network and production executives “decided that for a variety of reasons, ranging from the current political moment to keeping crew members safe in the field amid clashes between police and protesters,” that the show would no longer air.

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‘Live PD’ canceled; critics now demand changes for ‘PAW Patrol’ and Disney’s Splash Mountain

A&E has canceled “Live PD,” the network’s highest-rated TV show. The live television program, which followed law enforcement around the country, was pummeled with backlash following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody.

“This is a critical time in our nation’s history, and we have made the decision to cease production on ‘Live PD,'” the network said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

Following massive ratings during the show’s nearly 300 episodes, “Live PD” had been picked up for 160 additional episodes by A&E in May.

Dan Abrams, who hosted “Live PD” since 2016, tweeted:

Shocked & beyond disappointed about this. To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on. More to come. I am going to finally go to sleep but I just want to say one more thing to the #LivePDNation. Thank you for making this so much more than a tv show. You created a huge community of kind, caring people with whom I hope to stay in touch with in this next chapter. More tomorrow.

Abrams released a statement on his website Law & Crime:

I am frustrated and sad because I truly believed in the mission of the show to provide transparency in policing. I completely agree with advocates calling for more bodycams on officers and more uniform rules for their use. It seems to me that the antidote to bad policing and officers is transparency and that means more bodycams and more shows like ‘Live PD.’ It’s important to distinguish ‘Live PD’ from a show like ‘Cops’ that just presented a highlight reel of crazy moments. ‘Live PD’ was totally different — following the officers in real time, in their real environments showing the nerves, the adrenaline, the bad, the good, and often the mundane and boring. I will miss it all.

“Live PD” was recently scrutinized over having footage of a 40-year-old man dying after a police chase. Javier Ambler led Texas police on a 22-minute pursuit in Austin on March 28, 2019. Ambler’s vehicle crashed, and he was tased four times by Williamson County deputies. Bodycam footage of the incident reportedly has Ambler screaming “save me” and “I can’t breathe.” Ambler became unresponsive and died.

“Live PD” was on hiatus when the incident happened, and the death was never aired. “Live PD” said it deleted the footage in June. Abrams said the show has a “long standing policy to only keep footage for a few weeks absent a specific legal request to retain it and all of the departments we followed were aware of that policy.” He said they delete footage so that law enforcement can’t use the video to “prosecute citizens seen on the footage.”

A&E Networks, which is owned by Hearst Communications and Disney Media Networks, canceled “Live PD” after weeks of protests against police brutality. The TV show was pressured to be canceled because it dared to show cops in a positive light.

Another docuseries that follows police officers, “Cops,” was canceled by the Paramount Network on Tuesday after 32 seasons.

Civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change celebrated Viacom canceling “Cops,” and demanded other networks to “cancel similarly harmful shows.”

“For more than 30 years, “Cops” has miseducated the public and normalized injustice,” Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color Of Change, said. “Crime television encourages the public to accept the norms of over-policing and excessive force and reject reform, while supporting the exact behavior that destroys the lives of Black people. ‘Cops’ led the way, pushing troubling implications for generations of viewers. Now it’s time for other networks to cancel similarly harmful shows. We call on A&E to cancel “Live PD” next. In a moment when everyone wants to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, we must hold these companies accountable to put actions to words with a complete industry overhaul.”

But “Cops” and “Live PD” aren’t the only TV shows facing criticisms on how they depict police officers. The cartoon “PAW Patrol” has not escaped attacks for portraying cops in a positive manner.

Despite having a target demographic of toddlers and preschool children, the “PAW Patrol” Twitter account posted a message on June 2, that said: “In solidarity of #amplifymelanatedvoices we will be muting our content until June 7th to give access for Black voices to be heard so we can continue to listen and further our learning. #amplifyblackvoices.”

The tweet was welcomed by trolls and the rage mob with messages saying,”Abolish Chase,” who is the adorable animated German Shepherd character in the show that serves as a police dog, demanding the “PAW Patrol to be defunded,” and to “euthanize the police dog.” An alleged “anti-fascist” Twitter account responded to the message from the Twitter account of a children’s cartoon with the acronym: “ACAB,” meaning “All Cops Are Bastards.”

The New York Times amplified the calls to prohibit TV shows, including cartoons, from showing police officers in a favorable way.

It’s a joke, but it’s also not. As the protests against racist police violence enter their third week, the charges are mounting against fictional cops, too. Even big-hearted cartoon police dogs — or maybe especially big-hearted cartoon police dogs — are on notice. The effort to publicize police brutality also means banishing the good-cop archetype, which reigns on both television and in viral videos of the protests themselves. “PAW Patrol” seems harmless enough, and that’s the point: The movement rests on understanding that cops do plenty of harm.

So any entertainment property depicting cops in a positive light is now under scrutiny and could be removed from streaming libraries, much like how HBO Max yanked the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” this week.

TV shows such as “Law and Order,” “ChiPs,” “The Shield,” and “Hill Street Blues” have apparently been put “on notice.” You had better get a Blu-ray copy of your favorite law enforcement flicks before the censorship gang attempts a digital book burning of buddy cop movies such as “48 Hours,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Bad Boys,” “Turner & Hooch,” “Tango and Cash,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Super Troopers,” “Die Hard,” “Seven,” “21 Jump Street,” “Fargo,” “The Other Guys,” “Ride Along,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “Police Academy.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) came to the defense of “PAW Patrol” by tweeting: “The left is tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, getting ‘PAW Patrol’ and ‘Live PD’ canceled, and pushing to defund the police. This is not progress—it’s mob rule and madness.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also called out the “absurdity” of cancel culture targeting cartoons.

Not only are TV shows and cartoon dogs on the hot seat, but so are amusement park rides. A petition titled, “Re-theme Splash Mountain to Princess and the Frog,” which has been signed by over 10,000 people, is asking that Disney rename one of the park’s most iconic rides.

The petition points out that Splash Mountain is based on the 1946 movie “Song of the South,” a movie critics claim is “steeped in extremely problematic and stereotypical racist tropes.” Splash Mountain is featured in Disneyland, Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland.

“There is a huge need for diversity in the parks and this could help fill that need. ‘Princess and the Frog’ is a beloved princess movie but has very little representation in the parks,” the petition states. “Tiana could be one of the first princesses with a thrill ride, as well as giving her a much deserved place in the parks. The framing of the ride is such that it could be easily changed to tell the story of Tiana while not compromising too much of the ride/costing a fortune in remodeling for Disney. This change could kill two birds with one stone, remove the offensive stereotypical theming the ride currently has and bring a much needed diversity to the parks. As well as a much bigger merchandising opportunity for ‘Princess and the Frog.'”

Earlier this year, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger said “Song of the South” would not appear on the Disney+ streaming service because it is “not appropriate in today’s world.” The film was previously tagged with a disclaimer warning of “outdated cultural depictions.”

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‘Cops,’ the hit reality TV show that follows police officers, gets permanently canceled in wake of protests

“Cops,” the documentary-style reality TV show that follows police officers in the line of duty and has aired since 1989, is being permanently canceled in the wake of new dialogue about police brutality in America.

Paramount Network, a ViacomCBS-owned TV channel, announced Tuesday that “Cops” would not return to its lineup, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“‘Cops’ is not on the Paramount Network and we don’t have any current or future plans for it to return,” a Paramount spokesperson said.

The show was originally slated to return for the start of its 33rd season on Monday.

More from The Hollywood Reporter:

Paramount Network’s forerunner, Spike TV, picked up “Cops” in 2013 after it ended a 25-season run on Fox. The series continued following the 2018 rebranding of the channel as Paramount Network, which also had syndication rights to many past seasons.

Old episodes of “Cops” currently air on WGN America and the ViacomCBS-owned streaming service Pluto TV. WGN America’s commitment to the show expires at the end of June and the cable network, owned by Nexstar, doesn’t plan to renew it, sources told The Hollywood Reporter.

News of the reality show’s demise comes nearly a week after “Cops” and “Live PD,” an A&E show that follows police officers live on duty, were pulled from programming in the wake of nationwide civil unrest.

Another similar show “Body Cam,” which airs on Discovery ID, has also been pulled, at least temporary, from the airwaves, the Washington Post reported.

The reality shows have long been a target for scrutiny by critics who think they glorify aggressive police tactics.

Indeed, law enforcement culture is undergoing its most thorough examination ever in the shadow of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Police restraints, officers unions, and even whole departments are now being targeted for top-to-bottom reforms, and in the case of Minneapolis, even abolishment.

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Newly released bodycam video reportedly shows man’s 2019 death after he was repeatedly tased and held down by cops

USA Today reported Monday that newly released police bodycam video shows that a black man was killed in March 2019 while in Texas police custody.

In circumstances eerily similar to those of the late George Floyd, an officer tased the man, who also said he couldn’t breathe during detainment. The man died shortly thereafter.

Just this week, local media outlets were able to obtain bodycam footage of the detainment.

What are the details?

The incident was initially captured during the taping of an episode of the reality show “Live PD,” according to reports, though the episode has not aired. This week, A&E
announced that it would no longer air episodes of the popular police show.

Javier Ambler was driving in Austin, Texas, when a sheriff attempted pulled him over for reportedly failing to dim his high beams at oncoming traffic. A body camera filmed the incident, according to reports.

Ambler, a 40-year-old former postal service worker, reportedly refused to stop when the officer put on his lights and instead led the officer on a chase through area highways and streets for nearly 22 minutes.

USA Today reported that Austin officers were told to stop chasing the man into nearby Travis County because they “are allowed only to chase dangerous criminals.”

During the chase, Ambler reportedly crashed his vehicle into stationary objects no fewer than four times before finally crashing one final time north of downtown Austin.

Deputy J.J. Johnson, a regularly featured officer on “Live PD,” was reportedly alone when he finally faced off with Ambler. According to reports, Johnson drew his weapon on Ambler and demanded that he get out of the vehicle. Ambler complied as Johnson holstered his weapon and pulled out his Taser instead.

Johnson told Ambler to get down on the ground several times, but Ambler reportedly attempted to turn toward the car instead. That’s when Johnson deployed his Taser on Ambler, who fell to one knee. USA Today reported that Ambler then “rolled onto his back and stomach and acted as though he was trying to stand.”

As backup arrived, Johnson demanded that Ambler remain on the ground.

Deputy Zachary Camden arrived on the scene and immediately “shoved his Taser into Ambler’s upper back ‘in a drive-stun motion.'”

The trio struggled, and deputies deployed the Taser on Ambler a third time as they attempted to handcuff the suspect.

During the scuffle, Ambler shouted that he had “congestive heart failure” and insisted that he was unable to breathe.

Both deputies demanded Ambler relax, but he became more and more agitated instead and insisted that he wasn’t trying to resist arrest — he simply couldn’t breathe.

He told them, “I am not resisting. Sir, I can’t breathe. … Please … please. … Save me.”

At least one deputy demanded, “Do what we’re asking you to do!” but Ambler said he was unable to comply because he couldn’t breathe.

One of the deputies then deployed a final blast from the Taser, and Ambler went limp. He fell unconscious, and police worked to find a pulse. They could not find one and began performing CPR until medics arrived on the scene.

First responders took Ambler to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police body-cam footage: Javier Ambler’s fatal encounter with Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies

What now?

USA Today reported that the incident is only now coming to light after repeated questions and requests for information from local media outlets.

In response, police released documents and video surrounding Ambler’s detainment and death after reportedly having been less than forthcoming with information surrounding his death.

“Ambler’s parents still have few questions about their son’s death,” the outlet reported. “Until last week, they knew only that he died in police custody. Reporters informed them he was chased after a minor traffic violation.”

The outlet noted that at least one Texas county official is concerned over the deputies’ decision to chase and tase the man simply because he failed to dim his lights.

“It is of very serious concern to any of us who are in law enforcement that the decision to engage in that chase was driven by more of a need to provide entertainment than to keep Williamson County citizens safe,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said.

Moore also added that the popular A&E show has not produced a video of the arrest so far.

Ambler’s mother, Maritza, told reporters that she is in shock.

“He’s dead,” she sobbed. “How? I can’t have any closure because I need to know.”

In an initial report, the internal affairs division concluded that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department deputies did nothing wrong and were not in violation of the agency’s pursuit or use-of-force policies. Ambler’s death, however, was ruled a homicide according to the state attorney general’s office. The report noted that the homicide could have been “justifiable.”

Ambler’s official cause of death was congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity “in combination with forcible restraint.”

The Travis County District Attorney is leading the investigation into Ambler’s death.

Moore told CNN that it’s time to take the case to the grand jury.

“This case has been so unusual,” Moore said. “It is not typical for us to encounter obstacles to getting evidence, especially from another law enforcement agency.”

She added, “It’s important, in today’s climate with the heightened response to officer-involved incidents, that the public know we are prosecuting this case, are taking it to the grand jury and will will do anything within our power to see that justice is done here.”

You can read more on the background of the case

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TV shows ‘Cops,’ ‘Live PD’ removed from air amid George Floyd protests

Long-running series “Cops” and popular A&E program “Live PD” have both been pulled from broadcasting amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

It is unclear when either law enforcement-focused show might be aired again, if ever.

What are the details?

Variety first reported Friday that “A&E has decided not to run new episodes of ‘Live PD’ this Friday and Saturday, while Paramount Network has delayed the Season 33 launch of ‘Cops,’ the long-running reality series that was scheduled to return on Monday.”

A&E confirmed their decision in a statement, saying, “Out of respect for the families of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives, in consultation with the departments we follow, and in consideration for the safety of all involved, we have made the decision not to broadcast ‘Live PD’ this weekend.”

According to IndieWire, Paramount Network “confirmed that parent company ViacomCBS has no plans to put ‘Cops’ back on aire at this stage. The pause in programming comes as Paramount Network begins to shift away from all unscripted programming.”

“Live PD” had been scheduled to return on June 5 after a two week hiatus, but producer Dan Abrams confirmed Friday night, “Sorry to say that there will be no #LivePD this weekend.” Abrams shared a link to the Variety story, and echoed A&E’s statement, saying, “The decision was made in conjunction with the departments we follow.”

WTVF-TV reported “despite the intention of promoting police transparency, a number of communities have condemned [‘Live PD’],” noting that “one criticism of the show is that it shows interactions with citizens who may not end up being guilty of a crime. Another criticism of the show is that it only shows incidents from the perspective of officers and not the public.”