A recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight has been blocked in India after host John Oliver went on an extended rant criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to a new report. The censorship didn’t come from Modi’s administration but rather a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co.
Bloomberg News reported that the Disney-owned Indian streaming service Hotstar yanked Sunday’s episode in which Oliver discussed President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to India. After mocking President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, the comedian set his phasers on Modi, first by playing an old clip showing the prime minister handling elephant dung with TV adventurer Bear Grylls.
Oliver’s 20-minute rant, which can be viewed on the show’s official YouTube channel, paints Modi as a crypto-fascist, an incompetent leader, and an anti-Muslim bigot.
“While Modi may have charmed Bear Grylls, the world, and our current president, in India he is an increasingly controversial figure,” Oliver said. “His government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities — persecution so intense that for the last two months, Indians across the country have been taking to the streets in anger.”
John Oliver concluded his long-winded monologue saying: “It’s incredibly depressing to see India headed in this direction. The only glimmer of hope here is that for perhaps the first time in Modi’s whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash.”
Bloomberg News said the Disney-owned Hotstar didn’t respond to requests for comment. A representative for India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry told the news outlet that the government wasn’t involved in the matter.
Hollywood studios frequently censor content that might upset governments in countries that represent lucrative markets. Disney recently forbade its ESPN journalists from discussing Chinese politics and the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong while on air for fear that Beijing might retaliate against other Disney businesses.
Last year, Netflix pulled an episode of its comedy show Patriot Act from Saudi Arabia after host Hasan Minhaj brought up the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
With a population of more than 1.3 billion people, India is a valuable market for Disney and other Hollywood studios, especially in the realm of digital streaming. Since the Chinese streaming market is off limits to foreign companies like Netflix, the Indian market represents the biggest growth market for subscribers outside the U.S.