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Disney changes Hulu policy to accept issue-based political ads after Democratic backlash

The Disney and FX on Hulu logos.
Hulu will now accept issue-based political ads.
(SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Walt Disney Co. has changed Hulu’s policy on accepting issue-based political advertising, following a backlash from Democrats after the streaming service rejected commercials about abortion and guns.

Hulu had a longstanding policy against running ads focused on controversial topics, though the company did run spots about individual candidates.

Disney said in a Wednesday statement that it had decided to expand Hulu’s political advertising guidelines after “a thorough review of ad policies across its linear networks and streaming platforms over the last few months.”

After months of outrage from conservatives, Disney criticized by Democrats accusing the company’s Hulu streaming outlet of censoring ads on abortion, guns.

“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 company said. “Hulu will now accept candidate 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.”

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The purpose of the stance against running issue-based political messaging, according to a person close to the company, was to “minimize misinformation and to protect the consumer experience.”

But the decision against airing the ads angered Democrats, who complained that Disney was censoring their views on key topics, which happen to be core campaign talking points for upcoming elections, particularly after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court.

“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country,” said leaders of the Democrats’ Senate and congressional campaign committees and gubernatorial association in a statement. “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 been a red-hot potato for politicians, both liberal and conservative, in recent months.

First, Chief Executive Bob Chapek faced an employee uprising from LGBTQ staff for not initially condemning Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, known to critics as “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Disney then drew the ire of Republicans after the law was passed by saying its goal was to have it repealed, sparking a months-long campaign by social conservatives accusing Disney of forcing a “sexual agenda” on kids.

Now it’s Democrats’ turn to put Disney in the hot seat.

Disney’s decision doesn’t necessarily mean the specific ads at issue will immediately appear on Hulu. The commercials can be resubmitted and would then go through the company’s review process, the person close to Disney said.

The Burbank entertainment giant has controlled Hulu since 2019, after it closed its $71-billion takeover of 21st Century Fox entertainment assets.

Disney had already owned a stake in Hulu, and acquiring Fox gave it a majority position. Comcast Corp. still owns a minority stake in Hulu, which now has 45 million subscribers and airs programming such as “Dopesick” and “The Dropout.”


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