The House Select Committee on Competition with the Chinese Communist Party has sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook questioning whether concerns about Apple’s relationship with China spurred the termination of the Apple+ series “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”
Last month, when the show’s end was announced just weeks before taping for a third season was set to begin, the New York Times reported that Stewart and Apple parted ways over creative control issues.
Stewart reportedly told staff members that Apple objected to potential show topics that included China and AI.
In the letter, which was made public, the committee wrote that if the reports are accurate, “it potentially speaks to broader concerns about indirect Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence over the creative expression of American artists and companies on CCP-related topics. It also highlights an additional reason, beyond the traditionally-cited national security rationales, why we encourage Apple to accelerate its efforts to reduce its dependence on the PRC in its core business.”
"While companies have the right to determine what content is appropriate for their streaming service, the coercive tactics of a foreign power should not be directly or indirectly influencing these determinations,” the letter said.
“If Jon Stewart can potentially be impeded from offering commentary on the CCP, what does this mean for less prominent personalities? While there is a chance that a high-profile individual like Jon Stewart can locate another streaming service where he can express his views on PRC-related matters, an aspiring comedian who wants to use satire to make broader points about human rights and authoritarianism faces even bleaker prospects. Respectfully, we believe that this needs to change and responsible creative professionals should be able to freely write and perform on PRC-related topics.”
The letter, co-signed by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and its top Democrat, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)., asked Apple to provide a briefing on the matter by Dec. 15.
It added that “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 two-year-old series was among Apple's most-watched unscripted shows, and won four Emmy nominations.