Hulu was pushed to make a major decision about political ads last month when some subscribers threatened a boycott. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hulu rejected ads about safe abortion access and gun safety from groups associated with the Democratic party, despite the fact that those same ads were aired on other Disney-owned platforms like ABC News and ESPN. After some tough publicity and online pressure, Disney issued a statement to THR saying that Hulu would air the commercials after all.
"After a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months, Disney is now aligning Hulu's political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company's general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+," the statement said. "Hulu will now accept candidates and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits or alternative creative, in alignment with industry standards."
The previously rejected ads came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Governors Association. They reportedly point out the voting records of Republican candidates on issues like gun safety and abortion. The ads had also been accepted by Facebook, YouTube, Roku and NBCUniversal at the time when Hulu initially rejected them.
The hashtag "Boycott Hulu" became one of the trending topics on Twitter on Tuesday, and pundits were furious at what they called censorship. A joint statement from the directors of the committees issued a statement saying: "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."
Disney has a long history of trying to stay politically neutral, but in recent years it has become difficult since either side could consider silence to be a form of endorsement. There was a similar backlash back in March when Florida legislators passed the so-called "Don't-Say-Gay" bill, and Disney did not respond in spite of its massive presence in that state.
Hulu's official advertising policy reportedly says that political ads will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and that "Content that takes a position on a controversial issue of public importance" is prohibited. It's not clear if the language of that policy will change following this controversy.