PBS series to explore charting course for #MeToo movement

PBS will explore issues surrounding sexual harassment and assault — with an emphasis on a path forward — in a five-part series titled “#MeToo, Now What?,” scheduled to premiere in February.

The project, produced by Women in the World Media, will be hosted by Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi. The half-hour series will seek to engage men and women “in dialogue about these difficult issues,” according to PBS, which will unveil the program as part of its portion of the TV Critics Association tour on Tuesday.

PBS president/CEO Paula Kerger noted that PBS had been swept up in the “seismic #MeToo movement” and “been a part of this story,” having severed ties with host Charlie Rose and suspended Tavis Smiley over sexual-harassment allegations.

Kerger said that PBS was looking for a project to “at least be part of the discussion” surrounding sexual harassment, a role the service is “uniquely positioned” to play. She said the hope is to continue that exploration beyond the series.

Each episode will explore the topic from a different angle. Those will include looks at popular culture’s role regarding women in the workplace, race and class, pay inequity, and constructive solutions.

Since allegations surfaced in October regarding producer Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo hashtag, and subsequently the Time’s Up campaign, have pressed for action, amid a wave of disclosures regarding abusive behavior that has gradually filtered beyond Hollywood to media, politics and business in general.

The announcement comes at a moment when public broadcasting faces the prospect of serious budget cuts under the Trump administration. PBS officials have noted that the proposed reduction would most seriously impact stations in rural areas — many of which voted for Trump in the 2016 election — that rely on federal funding.

Kerger noted that PBS has received bipartisan support in the Senate but must remain vigilant and “continue to demonstrate our value” amid efforts to strip or radically diminish federal support.

Despite the abundance of TV content, PBS presents itself as a resource for under-served audiences, from its emphasis on children’s and preschool programming to the arts to documentaries such as the recent “The Vietnam War.”

The PBS press tour also highlighted upcoming programs that include a four-hour remake of “Little Women;” “Dolores,” an Independent Lens documentary about 87-year-old civil-rights activist Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the first farm workers’ unions with Cesar Chavez; and “The Gilded Age,” chronicling a period of stark economic disparity — with obvious modern parallels — in the late 19th century.

Women in the World is devoted to championing journalism about female leaders and role models. The organization will hold its ninth annual summit this April in New York.