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Hulu reverses policy, will accept ads on political candidates, issues

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The Disney-backed streaming service Hulu said Wednesday it will start accepting ads promoting political candidates and issues, reversing a policy that had infuriated Democratic campaigns trying to press central themes of the midterm elections, such as abortion and guns, on a platform popular with younger voters.

In a statement, Hulu said that “after a thorough review,” Disney had decided to align Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the company’s sports and entertainment cable networks and the streaming service ESPN Plus.

“Hulu will now accept candidate and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits” or other changes, “in alignment with industry standards,” the statement said.

The statement did not specifically mention ads on guns or abortion, but such ads have previously run on other Disney-owned stations and services.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Hulu has a policy against running content deemed controversial. Like other digital providers, it is not bound by the Communications Act of 1934, a law that requires broadcast television networks to provide politicians equal access to the airwaves.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Governors Association tried to purchase joint ads on abortion and guns with Hulu on July 15, along with identical placements on a Disney-linked ABC affiliate in Philadelphia and the company’s cable sports channel ESPN. The Hulu ads never ran, while the others did.

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

The party committees joined a growing list of Democratic candidates who have had spots mentioning gun violence, abortion or political violence rejected by Hulu.

Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York City, posted a letter of protest, first reported by Jezebel, to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Hulu President Joe Earley complaining that a Hulu representative told his campaign there was an “unwritten Hulu policy” that deemed the topics in one of his ads too “sensitive” for the platform. The ad in question mentioned Republican successes around abortion, climate change and gun violence, while also showing footage of the violence from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“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.”

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