US lawmakers meet with Disney’s Bob Iger to discuss Chinese censorship

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Bob Iger and other top Hollywood executives were summoned to meet a House select committee to discuss concerns over Hollywood’s practices. 

Of late, Disney (and other film studios) have come under fire for hypocrisy, with critics arguing that they present films with progressive stories in one part of the world, before changing them to gain access to the lucrative Chinese box office. Disney CEO Bob Iger found himself tackling this tricky question during a recent investor call, with the issue clearly being a topic that is frustrating some sections of Disney’s investment backers, not to mention fans.

It’s not just investors and fans who have voiced concerns about this practice either: now Iger and a number of other powerful Hollywood executives have found themselves meeting with politicians to discuss the matter, with the House select committee on China summoning the film industry’s top brass for a discussion to go over their concerns.

Hollywood has found itself a target in the past, as lawmakers express frustration that these companies are all too willing to appease a nation with a troubling human rights record. Disney especially has come under fire in the past, not least in 2020 when its production work on Mulan in the Xinjiang region sparked criticism that the studio was collaborating with the Chinese government in the same area where Uyghur Muslims are held in detention camps.

Key political critics of Disney have said they want Iger to formally testify at some point, but it is unknown if the meeting this week has appeased those critics. For its part, Disney has offered a public statement, saying “we seek to share our stories in their original form as we and the artists involved have created them. If we make edits because of legal or other considerations, they will be as narrow as possible. We will not make an edit where we believe it would impact the storytelling. In that circumstance, we will not distribute the content in that market.”

In practice, that approach has been somewhat uneven. Whilst the company elected not to make cuts to a same sex relationship sequence in Pixar’s Lightyear to try and secure a Chinese release, as recently as last month the company removed an episode of The Simpsons from the Hong Kong version of Disney+ for being critical of China’s human rights record.

Whether this story eventually leads to Iger and other Hollywood bosses appearing in front of congress to testify remains to be seen, but the company needs to tread carefully as its actions continue to be closely scrutinised.


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