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House Special Committee of Representatives asked Apple TV+ has defended its decision to cancel The Trouble with Jon Stewart following speculation it was related to the company's relationship with China.
Apple TV+ canceled The Trouble with Jon Stewart in October 2023, ahead of its planned third season. Neither Apple nor Stewart would comment publicly, but an anonymous source said it was an amicable parting due to differences over the topics planned for the season.
Variety said at the time that the topics were believed to include China and artificial intelligence. However, the show regularly covered controversial topics, including criticism of Apple itself.
According to Deadline, members of the House Select Committee on Competition with the Chinese Communist Party wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook about canceling the show.
“If these reports [about China] are accurate,” said the letter, signed by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), “it potentially speaks to broader concerns about the indirect Chinese Communist Party.” (CCP) influence on the creative expression of American artists and companies on CCP-related topics.”
“It also highlights an additional reason,” he continues, “beyond traditionally cited national security concerns, why we urge Apple to accelerate its efforts to reduce its dependence on the PRC [People's Republic of China] for its core business.”
“If Jon Stewart could potentially be stopped from commenting on PDA, what does that mean for lesser-known figures?” the letter says. “While there is a chance that someone as famous as Jon Stewart could find another streaming service where he can express his views on issues related to the PRC, an aspiring comedian who wants to use satire to make broader views on human rights and authoritarianism faces an even bleaker outlook.”
“With all due respect,” he continues, “we believe this needs to change and responsible creative professionals should be able to freely write and speak on PRC-related topics.”
“To reassure the creative community in light of these reports,” the committee's letter said, “we also respectfully request that Apple publicly state that content that may be perceived as critical of the CCP or the People's Republic of China is welcome.” on Apple TV+ and other Apple services.”
What happens next
Apple has been given until December 15, 2023 to respond. Committee says , which will also contact Jon Stewart's representatives.
In a conversation with Deadline about the letter and the issue, Gallagher said the committee was concerned about “self-censorship on the client side.”
“Ask yourself: when was the last time a film featured a Chinese villain?” He said. “I can't think of one. Perhaps this is evidence that self-censorship is taking place.”
In its two years of existence, The Trouble with Jon Stewart has become Apple's most-watched unscripted show. It was also nominated for four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Talk Show.
Apple did not comment on the special committee's letter.