Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to explain why Apple removed “The Problem with Jon Stewart” from its AppleTV streaming service, CNN reported.
In the November 16 letter signed by Committee Chair Mike Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, the lawmakers asked Cook to brief the committee on December 15 to explain whether China coerced Apple to take Stewart’s show off the air.
It was previously reported that Apple executives had approached Stewart with concerns over the show’s discussion on artificial intelligence and China, telling the host that he needed to be in line with Apple on certain topics. However, Stewart reportedly declined, arguing that he wanted to maintain creative control over the show. After Apple threatened to cancel the program, Stewart dropped the show.
Citing the reports, the lawmakers told Cook that the incident with Stewart could speak “to broader concerns” about China’s indirect influence on “the creative expression of American artists and companies on CCP-related topics.”
They said that the incident also “highlights” another reason Congress has encouraged Apple “to accelerate its efforts to reduce its dependence” on China.
The lawmakers conceded that streaming services should have the “right to determine what content is appropriate,” but added that such determinations should not be “directly or indirectly” influenced by “the coercive tactics of a foreign power.”
Gallagher and Krishamoorthi noted that as a well-known comedian, Jon Stewart can easily find another streaming service to broadcast his show, but for lesser-known hosts, it could be difficult to find a platform to broadcast their views on issues related to the CCP.
The lawmakers urged Apple to “urgently” begin diversifying its supply chains and reducing its technological dependence on China, which only gives the CCP economic leverage over the company.
China accounts for nearly 20 percent of Apple’s sales, making it the company’s fastest-growing region.