JioCinema takes down 2019 episode of ‘Last Week Tonight’ on PM Modi, elections

The episode had not been released at all by Disney+ Hotstar, the streaming service which previously held the rights to HBO content in India

Updated - May 16, 2024 05:25 pm IST

Published - May 16, 2024 01:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A screenshot of JioCinema streaming service airing PM Modi’s event. Photo for representational purpose only.

A screenshot of JioCinema streaming service airing PM Modi’s event. Photo for representational purpose only.

The majority Reliance group-owned streaming service JioCinema on Thursday took down a 2019 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver after it surfaced that the episode, that the show’s previous streaming partner in India, Disney+ Hotstar, was widely reported for its choice to avoid releasing. It is unclear why JioCinema took the episode down — The Hindu has reached out to HBO parent Warner Bros Discovery and a JioCinema spokesperson for comment.

In the episode, host John Oliver covers the 2019 general elections to the Lok Sabha, and that year’s protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. Mr. Oliver resurfaced allegations against Prime Minister Modi around the Gujarat riots (where a Supreme Court-ordered Special Investigation Team cleared him of complicity), and featured what he characterised as Islamophobic remarks by other top BJP leaders like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Home Minister Amit Shah, who was at that time the BJP president.

Disney+ Hotstar, which was airing the show’s episodes after a 24 hour delay (partly in order to scrub the show of any disparaging comments on the Walt Disney Corporation and crop out maps of Jammu and Kashmir that the Indian government disputes), abstained from airing the episode entirely. The main segment on Mr. Modi and the elections was released on YouTube, and remains available there.

In a subsequent episode, Mr. Oliver criticised Hotstar for censoring the episode, as well as previous censorship of Disney characters featured on the show as a joke. Hotstar largely carried subsequent episodes without censorship of Disney characters, but never commented on its decision. The streaming service is on its way to being owned by Reliance, following a merger of Disney’s India operations with the Ambani-run conglomerate, at a ₹11,500 crore price tag. 

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