Hulu will allow ads on political issues after all, Disney says after Democrats criticize policy

Topline

Hulu will now run political ads on issues including abortion and gun control, parent company Disney announced Wednesday, reversing a previous policy that banned ads dealing with “sensitive” political topics after groups and Democratic candidates have expressed outrage that the streaming service is rejecting their ads and calls increased at boycott the company.

Highlights

Hulu will now accept political ads from political groups and candidates “covering a wide range of political positions,” Disney said in a statement to Forbesalthough it “always reserves the right to request modifications or alternative designs” based on “industry standards”.

The streaming platform’s standards will now conform to Disney’s cable networks and ESPN+, which have in the past accepted political ads that Hulu has rejected.

The policy change, which was first reported by Axios, was made after a “thorough review” of the company’s advertising policies, Disney said.

Hulu’s previous advertising policy stated that the company would review political ads individually on a case-by-case basis, and “reserves the right to review, approve, reject, and refuse to display or remove any advertising,” including understood depending on the content of the ads.

The change came after Democratic fundraising groups slammed Disney in a statement Monday after Hulu refused to run ads focused on abortion and gun laws, saying censorship of their ads by the streaming service was “outrageous, offensive and another step down a dangerous path for our country.”

Congressional candidate Suraj Patel had also objected to Hulu’s rejection of a campaign ad that used the phrase ‘from abortion rights and gun laws to climate change’ and showed footage of January 6, sending a letter to Disney which asserted that not mentioning these subjects “is not solving the most important problems facing the United States.

To monitor

The Democratic fundraising groups have “resubmitted our ads to verify that Hulu has changed their policies and will continue to engage with them until we receive confirmation that ads on these issues are allowed to run,” said a National Democratic Party official. Forbes on behalf of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.

Key Context

Broadcast television networks do not have the right to censor ads from political candidates under the Communications Act of 1934, which requires them to air ads from both parties equally, but digital platforms like Hulu are not not covered by law, leaving them free to censor ads if they choose. Hulu had objected to Patel’s use of “sensitive” issues in his campaign ad, a campaign source told Jezebel, and the candidate’s ad was later accepted after replacing “climate change” with “democracy” and getting rid of the January 6 images. In addition to Patel, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) also had an abortion-related ad censored by Hulu in May. Democratic fundraising groups submitted two ads to Hulu on July 15, as well as Disney-owned ESPN, an affiliate of Philadelphia ABC, Facebook, YouTube, Roku and NBC/Universal, according to a national Democratic party official. . Although the ads ran on all other networks and platforms, they did not run on Hulu, and the Democratic official reported that Hulu gave little explanation as to why, saying that only the issue was “content-related”. The ad rejection controversy has led to calls users to boycott the company and to cancel their Hulu subscriptions, with Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications for grassroots organization Emily’s List, saying on Twitter the company was “choosing the wrong side here by banning ads that talk about reproductive rights.”

Tangent

The controversy over Hulu’s ad policy marks the second time Disney has come under fire for circumventing the policy in recent months, after the media giant previously came under fire on the left – and from its own employees – for refusing to take a stand. on Florida legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Disney CEO Bob Chapek reportedly wanted to keep the company out of politics, but the company eventually bowed to pressure and publicly spoke out against the bill in March. That drew the ire of Republicans, leading the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to dissolve the special tax district that covers Walt Disney World in April.

Further reading

Democrat groups slam Hulu for rejecting campaign ads as Disney comes under fire for avoiding politics – again (Forbes)

Exclusive: Hulu will start accepting ads on political issues (Axios)

Hulu rejects campaign ads as politics collides with streaming TV (Bloomberg)

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