Disney-owned Hotstar, India’s largest on-demand video streaming service with more than 300 million users, has blocked the newest episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” that was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The move has angered many of its customers ahead of Disney+’s launch in one of the world’s largest entertainment markets next month.
In the episode, aired hours before U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India, Oliver talked about some of the questionable policies enforced by the ruling government in India and recent protests against “controversial figure” Modi’s citizenship measures. The 19-minute news recap and commentary sourced its information from credible news outlets.
The episode is available to stream in India through HBO’s official channel on YouTube, where it has garnered more than 4 million views. Hotstar is the exclusive syndicating partner of HBO, Showtime and ABC in India.
Spokespeople of Star India, which runs Hotstar, and Disney, which acquired the major Indian broadcasting network as part of its Fox deal, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
A spokesperson of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the governing agency which regulates information, broadcasts, movies and the press in India, said the government was not involved in any censorship discussions.
Numerous people in India began speculating on Monday whether Hotstar, which like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video self-censors some content, would stream the new episode at 6am on Tuesday, when it typically makes new episodes of Oliver’s show available on the platform.
It became quickly apparent on Tuesday that the Disney-owned platform, which has a knack of censoring numerous sensitive subjects, including sketches that make fun of its sponsors, was not going to risk upsetting the ruling party.
Last year, Amazon also removed from its streaming service in India an episode of the CBS show “Madam Secretary” in which references to Hindu nationalism and extremists were made. Netflix also pulled an episode in Saudi Arabia of Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” that criticized the kingdom’s crown prince.