In a move that highlights growing concerns over potential censorship and influence by the Chinese government, U.S. lawmakers have demanded an explanation from tech giant Apple regarding the sudden termination of political comedian Jon Stewart’s television show on its streaming service.
The inquiry stems from a letter made public on Wednesday, in which members of the House committee raised questions about the cancellation of Stewart’s show, as reported by The New York Times last month. While initial reports suggested creative differences as the cause, the lawmakers point to claims that Apple executives were uneasy about potential show topics related to China and artificial intelligence.
The letter, signed by Representative Michael Gallagher, the panel’s Republican chairperson, and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the panel’s ranking Democrat, requests a briefing from Apple representatives on their concerns by December 15, 2023. It also anticipates discussions with Jon Stewart to gain insight into the circumstances surrounding the show’s abrupt end.
“To reassure the creative community in light of these reports, we also respectfully request that Apple publicly commit that content that could be perceived as critical of the CCP or the PRC is welcome on Apple TV+ and other Apple services,” the letter stated.
The release of the letter coincides with a high-profile dinner expected on Wednesday night in San Francisco, where top U.S. business leaders were scheduled to dine with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The meeting occurs on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, following a day of talks between Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden aimed at addressing the complex relationship between the two global economic powers.
The House committee, which has made China’s controls on media a focal point of its work, underscores the long-standing concerns among U.S. lawmakers about potential Chinese government censorship. The ruling Communist Party’s strict media controls have been a source of worry, particularly in Hollywood, where studios have sometimes altered or self-censored scripts to comply with Chinese authorities and gain access to the lucrative Chinese market.