Pop Culture

Report: Apple Asked TV Showrunners Not to Criticize China

As Apple endures intense scrutiny for its decision to remove an app that seemingly enabled Hong Kong protesters track police movement, another deferential gesture to China appears to have emerged. The expansive original programming slate due out with fall’s Apple TV+ launch is reportedly under the same mandate to keep China happy, as a BuzzFeed investigation claims Apple leadership “gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light.”

Common as the practice is—South Park recently aired, and doubled-down on an episode criticizing Hollywood productions that bow to Chinese censorship—Apple’s apparent decision to regulate content and practices to preserve a stake in the Chinese market comes amid a wave of similar stories. The NBA has repeatedly sidestepped any criticism or reference to China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong last week. Video game company Blizzard drew general condemnation for suspending a player who likewise expressed support for Hong Kong.

According to BuzzFeed, the mandate that Apple TV+ programs refrain from negative portrayals of China was handed down by SVP of internet software and services Eddy Cue, as well as head of international content development Morgan Wandell in early 2018. It is unclear which, if any, programs from Apple’s wide line-up—ranging from Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories reboot to Reese Witherspoon’s The Morning Show, Kumail Nanjiani’s immigrant-centric Little America and space-race drama For All Mankind—could have potentially included content that would upset Chinese censors. The mandate also somewhat overshadows another recent high-profile addition to the streaming network, as Apple confirmed Friday that Spielberg and Tom Hanks would collaborate on yet a third World War II drama miniseries, Masters of the Air.

Apple is reportedly wary of antagonizing Beijing, in light of a 2016 episode that saw China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television removing Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services, which competed directly with Chinese Internet companies. Vanity Fair has reached out to Apple for comment on Apple TV+’s reported practice.

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