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Hotstar, owned by Disney, blocks John Oliver segment critical of India’s leader

A Disney-owned streaming service operating in India has blocked a recent “Last Week Tonight” segment focused on the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Hours before President Donald Trump was set to meet with Modi, HBO’s Last Week Tonight aired a 20-minute monologue highlighting protests within the country against Modi’s controversial citizenship measure and other unfavorable policy decisions.

Hotstar, the official streaming syndicate of HBO content in India, typically releases episodes of the show the following Tuesday after they air in the United States and United Kingdom. But the Disney-owned streaming service didn’t release this week’s episode as schedule, leading many to speculate that the segment was voluntarily withheld.

A spokesperson with India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry said regulators were not involved in Disney’s decision to block the segment. A request sent to the Walt Disney Company for comment was not returned as of Tuesday afternoon. The segment is still available to view in India via HBO’s official YouTube channel.

Media censorship in India is not unusual when it comes to television programs that cast the country’s government in an unfavorable light: In 2015, a government regulator ordered a BBC-produced documentary “India’s Daughter” from airing within the country. The BBC and other broadcasters complied with the request, and copies of the film were swiftly removed from YouTube in response to the order. The documentary, which focused on the gang rape of a young woman and featured a prison interview with one of the convicted rapists, aired as scheduled in the United Kingdom and other countries.

HBO is owned by WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of AT&T.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).