LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cable television channel TLC canceled its reality show “19 Kids and Counting” on Thursday, citing controversy surrounding the disclosure of child molestation in the Duggar family at the heart of the series.
But the network said it planned to work with the Duggars to produce a one-hour documentary about child sexual abuse that will include two of the daughters, now in their 20s, who have publicly acknowledged they were molested by their brother Josh about 12 years ago.
Since the revelations surfaced in May, child protection advocates have accused the conservative Christian parents who starred on the show, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, of playing down their son Josh’s abuse of four of his sisters, one of whom was under 10 years old at the time.
TLC, owned by Discovery Communications, pulled all previously aired episodes of its top-rated series in May, and at least a dozen advertisers dropped the program.
On Thursday, the network announced it had decided to cancel the show altogether after more than a decade, ceasing plans for any future production.
“After thoughtful consideration, TLC and the Duggar family have decided to not move forward with ‘19 Kids and Counting,’” the network said in a statement. “The show will no longer appear on the air. The recent attention around the Duggars has sparked a critical and important conversation about child protection.”
TLC said it would team up with two victims advocacy organizations for a public service and education program about child sexual abuse, including a one-hour documentary with the Duggar family that will include two of the sisters who were molested, Jill Dillard, 24, and Jessa Seewald, 22.
The two said publicly last month that they had forgiven their brother for molesting them in the past.
Josh Duggar, now 27, released a statement in May apologizing for acting “inexcusably” 12 years ago. He also resigned from his job at the conservative Christian activist group Family Research Council.
In a statement posted on Michelle Duggar’s blog, the family confirmed its cooperation on a TLC documentary.
“With God’s grace and help, Josh, our daughters and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward,” the Duggars said. “We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become.”
The statement said the Duggars hoped “the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations.”
Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham and Bill Trott