For Democrats competing in this year’s midterm elections, issues like climate change, gun control, and abortion rights have taken center stage. But over the past two weeks, Democratic advertising centering on these crucial campaign concerns have been routinely rejected by the well-known streaming site Hulu, as was initially reported by The Washington Post on Monday.
In addition to previous digital purchases on Facebook, YouTube, and Roku, as well as more conventional placements on broadcast and cable channels, a collection of Democratic campaign groups sought to buy a joint advertisement on the Disney-backed Hulu platform on July 15. Every other platform accepted the advertisement, but Hulu did not. A Democratic party spokesman told the media that Hulu had not informed the organizations whether it will air the advertisement.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Governors Association released a statement on Hulu’s rejection on Monday in which they stated that “Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country.”
The parties contacted Hulu and requested clarification following the launch of the advertisement on the approved sites. On July 18, a Hulu spokesperson said that “content related” problems were the reason the advertisement was rejected. Before a representative sent an email stating that the ad was allowed, Hulu representatives turned down a number of further clarifying calls from the committees last week, according to emails seen by The Verge. Hulu said that the mail “was issued in mistake” many hours after receiving it.
The Democratic committees still don’t know for sure why the advertisements were disallowed. But their advertisement is simply the most recent in a long line of Democrats’ too “sensitive” to run advertisements that have been submitted in the last several weeks.
In response to The Verge’s request for comment, Hulu took some time to answer.
Republicans have recently applied significant political pressure to Disney, which controls 66 percent of Hulu. After CEO Bob Chapek denounced the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, the firm, which runs wildly successful amusement parks in Florida, came under fire from the GOP. The measure prohibited elementary school instructors from “discussing sexual orientation and gender identity” with their children.
Contrary to broadcast television networks, Hulu is exempt from the 1934 Communications Act’s requirement that politicians have equal access to the airwaves. However, it distinguishes itself from other online platforms and streaming services like Facebook, YouTube, and Roku by choosing to reject crucial Democratic issue advertisements that they had previously accepted.
Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate for congress in New York, said earlier this month that Hulu had engaged in censorship when a corporate representative demanded that his campaign erase references to abortion, climate change, and gun control before an advertisement could air on the service. Several additional pro-abortion rights campaign advertisements have been rejected by Hulu, but the company hasn’t specified why.
The Democratic groups said in a statement on Monday that “voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ agenda on issues like abortion” and that “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.”
It’s hard to establish whether Hulu’s general ad strategy disadvantages Democratic candidates, but party insiders find the mere potential worrisome. Democratic pollster and strategist Matt McDermott tweeted on Monday, “It is an utter travesty that a major streaming provider like Hulu is restricting Democrats’ ability to talk against Republican assaults.” “Hulu is one of the most effective channels for reaching young voters with advertisements. By preventing commercials on topics like abortion and climate change, Hulu is essentially preventing Democrats from reaching a sizable portion of the electorate on the most pressing issues confronting our nation.