Los Angeles Times

Democrats accuse Hulu of censorship over ads

Politician­s are angry over rejection of commercial­s on gun and abortion issues.

- By Seema Mehta and Ryan Faughnder

Disney has been facing a firestorm from conservati­ve Republican­s in recent months over the company’s vow to help repeal a Florida law that limits how LGBTQ people and issues can be talked about in schools.

Now, Democrats are irate over a decision by the Disney-owned streaming service Hulu to not air ads about abortion and guns — two central points in Democrats’ midterm campaigns.

“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country,” according to a statement by the leaders of the Democrats’ Senate and congressio­nal campaign committees and gubernator­ial associatio­n. “Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republican­s’ agenda on issues like abortion — and Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people by blocking voters from learning the truth about the GOP record or denying these issues from even being discussed.”

A person at Disney familiar with the matter said that while Hulu accepts candidate ads, the streaming service was firmly within its rights to decide which ads to air.

“To minimize misinforma­tion and to protect the consumer experience, Hulu’s long-standing guidelines prohibit advertisin­g that takes a position on a controvers­ial issue of public importance, and Hulu has always reviewed candidate ads on a case-by-case basis,” the person said.

The dispute began July 15, when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressio­nal Campaign

Committee and the Democratic Governors Assn. sought to place ads about abortion rights and gun violence on Hulu, Facebook, YouTube, Roku, NBC/Universal, ESPN and the ABC affiliate in Philadelph­ia, according to a national Democratic Party official. The last two, like Hulu, are owned by Disney.

One ad argues that the recent Supreme Court decision overturnin­g Roe vs. Wade is the result of a “coordinate­d Republican attack on abortion” and that the GOP would seek to ban abortions nationwide. The other cites statistics on gun deaths including the number of children killed and claims that “Republican­s are more devoted to the gun lobby than taking commonsens­e action to make our kids safe.”

“Make your voice heard” by voting in November, both ads conclude.

The ads ran on every outlet except Hulu, which has more than 45 million subscriber­s. In addition to streaming many broadcast and cable stations’ shows, it creates original programmin­g such as the “The Handmaid’s Tale” series.

Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Marymount University, said Hulu was legally in the clear. Though the 1934 Communicat­ions Act requires television networks to air ads from the major political parties, there is no similar mandate for streaming services.

“Legally, Hulu can basically pick and choose which political advertisem­ents to run. This is another example of technology outpacing the law,” she said. “If people don’t like Hulu’s decision, the solution is to cancel your subscripti­on, not file a lawsuit.”

Indeed, some social media users tweeted about canceling their subscripti­ons using the hashtag #BoycottHul­u. Others coopted the hashtag to express gratefulne­ss for not having to watch political ads.

It’s the latest political controvers­y to face Disney.

Earlier this year, liberals were angry when Disney did not initially speak out about Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by its critics. After the bill passed and the company faced employee protests, Disney pledged to help repeal the measure. Conservati­ves were outraged; conspiracy theorists and pundits accused Disney of nefarious intent against children. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislatio­n aiming to end special privileges in a dedicated area of central Florida that is home to Walt Disney World Resort.

“You’re a corporatio­n based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state? We view that as a provocatio­n, and we’re going to fight back against that,” DeSantis said in April after signing the legislatio­n.

The conservati­ve backlash has not stopped. Last week, Turning Point USA’s founder called for a boycott. “It’s time they realized that if they go woke, then they go broke!” Charlie Kirk wrote in an email to supporters.

In the midst of the firestorm over LGBTQ rights in Florida, employees of Pixar, another Disney subsidiary, took the company to task for removing moments of “overtly gay affection” from its movies. In response, Disney restored a brief same-sex kiss in the “Toy Story” spinoff “Lightyear” that had been edited out.

‘Legally, Hulu can basically pick and choose which political advertisem­ents to run.’

— Jessica Levinson, election law professor at Loyola

Marymount University

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States