The problem with Jon Stewart is that Apple appears to have cancelled his show
Planned episodes on China and AI reportedly worried Apple top brass
The Problem With Jon Stewart, popular show on Apple TV with the eponymous host, will not be returning to the streaming service for a third season.
The problem with the show appears to be that Stewart wanted to explore controversial topics like China and artificial intelligence in future episodes. According to the New York Times, Stewart on Thursday informed the show's production staff that the show would not be renewed due to creative differences between himself and Apple executives.
Stewart reportedly told staff members that possible shows on China and AI "were causing concern among Apple executives," the report says.
Stewart's production company, New York-based Busboy Productions, did not respond to a request for comment. Apple also did not respond to a request for comment.
About 20 percent of Apple's revenue in 2022 came from China, so it has a definite financial incentive not to annoy Chinese authorities.
Cupertino has been criticized for its deference to the Chinese Communist Party, through operating system changes that limited how democracy protesters could communicate, to the removal of VPN apps and other code from the App Store in China, and by turning over the management its iCloud service for Chinese users to a local firm, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Development Co., Ltd.
Last year, free-speech group GreatFire issued its Apple Censorship project report that accused Apple of censoring apps in Hong Kong and Russia to maintain market access.
The Cook, he crumbles before China
In an interview last month with CBS News anchor John Dickerson, just after reports that China had banned government employees from using iPhones, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked to assess the business environment in China for US companies.
"There are some complexities dealing with business in any foreign country because you're dealing with different laws and regulations than you're used to in your home country," he said.
"But we have lots of users there who love our products. And we want to serve them, and give them the best user experience with the best products. And that's what our focus is. From a geopolitical point of view, my focus has always been on engagement."
Asked to comment on US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's remarks in August that US companies report China has become "uninvestable" because of capricious law enforcement there, Cook said he hadn't seen any of that, with the possible exception of the reports about the government iPhone ban, which he had no knowledge of and Chinese authorities denied.
Ultimately, Cook fell back on the talking point that all companies recite when asked why they've deferred to authoritarian demands to maintain market access: "We abide by the laws of the country that we're in."
What that means in practice for a global company like Apple is that Chinese sensitivities apparently can shape Cook & Co's US media platforms.
- US lawmakers want China export bans to include open tech like RISC-V
- China kind-of-mostly denies it's banned iPhones from use in government
- China floats strict screentime limits and content crimps for kids
- Beijing proposes rules to stop Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks going rogue
This has been an issue for decades among global tech companies. As far back as 2006, Google, Microsoft, and YahooI! lobbied the Bush administration to treat censorship as a trade barrier. And US trade officials brought that same complaint to the World Trade Organization in 2007, with little apparent effect.
Subsequent similar lobbying efforts, from the The Computer and Communications Industry Association in 2009 and Google in 2010 did little to moderate Chinese demands on US businesses.
Back in 2011, at a Congressional hearing titled, "China's Censorship Of The Internet And Social Media: The Human Toll And Trade Impact," Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) observed that US companies have helped China in its censorship.
"What makes this situation even worse is that sometimes it is US companies, and my colleagues will recall I held the first of a series of hearings where we had Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Google before our committee," said Smith.
"It was my Subcommittee on Human Rights. They held up their hands and promised to tell the whole truth and nothing but, and then said they couldn't tell us what they were censoring and would not tell us how they were being complicit."
Not much has changed. ®