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Hulu Blocks 'Controversial' Democratic Campaign Ads on Abortion and Gun Violence

Democrats are calling out the Disney-owned service for refusing to run ads on key issues.
  • Hulu is under fire for its advertising policy. (Photo: Hulu)
    Hulu is under fire for its advertising policy. (Photo: Hulu)

    Hulu is refusing to run political ads on key themes of Democratic midterm campaigns, including abortion, guns, and the January 6 insurrection, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

    The streaming service has a policy against running "controversial" content, and since it is a digital provider, it is not bound by the Communications Act of 1934, which requires broadcast television networks to provide politicians equal access to airwaves.

    According to the Washington Post, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Governors Association tried to purchase joint ads about abortion and guns on Hulu, Philadelphia's ABC affiliate, and ESPN — all owned by Disney — on July 15. Although the ABC and ESPN ads aired, those on Hulu never did.

    Hulu has also rejected ad spots from other Democratic candidates referencing gun violence, abortion, or political violence.

    "Hulu's censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country," said the executive directors of the three committees, Christie Roberts, Tim Persico, and Noam Lee, in a statement provided to the Post. "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."

    Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York City, also responded to Hulu's policy in a letter of protest to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Hulu President Joe Earley, Jezebel reported on July 13.

    At the time, Hulu reportedly demanded that Patel remove at least one of three "sensitive" issues — abortion, climate change, or gun laws — from his digital campaign ad and replace it with "non-sensitive" issues. Jezebel reported the ad had already run on cable channels, but Patel and his team saw Hulu as an important streaming service to reach younger voters.

    "To not discuss these topics in my campaign ad is to not address the most important issues facing the United States," Patel wrote. "Your ban on mobilization messaging has a perverse effect on Democracy ... This policy has incredible implications for people nationwide, both voters and people running for office. You need to communicate with younger voters on the mediums where they are watching. Cable is not where they are watching."

    A person familiar with Hulu's policies spoke to the Washington Post anonymously, saying that the company does not publicly disclose its advertising guidelines but "prohibits advertising that takes a position on a controversial issue, regardless of whether it is a political ad." Ads are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, sometimes with edits recommended.

    When it comes to ads about abortion and gun violence, the anonymous source told the Post, "We do accept candidate ads that reference those topics. It needs to be in context."

    Primetimer has reached out to Hulu for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

    Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.

    TOPICS: Hulu, abortion, Advertising, Disney, Gun Violence, politics, U.S. Capitol Takeover