Jon Stewart interviews FTC head Lina Khan, says Apple wouldn’t let him do it

Jon Stewart interviewed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) head Lina Khan yesterday, saying that he’d wanted to do it while his show was hosted on Apple TV+, but the company wouldn’t allow it.

The revelation comes after one of the (many and varied!) complaints in the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit was that Apple was controlling content and impacting on free speech …


Jon Stewart’s time at Apple TV+

A multi-year partnership between Apple and comedian & commentator Jon Stewart was announced back in 2020. It was reported that this would include a talk show on Apple TV+, and a companion podcast.

The show was later named The Problem with Jon Stewart, with the topic of each show expanded on in the accompanying podcast.

The show was a hard-hitting one, tackling issues like US gun policy and the indictment of Trump, but Apple reportedly baulked at some of the topics Stewart wanted to cover in the third season, which included China and AI. Apple subsequently cancelled the show and podcast – leading to questions by Congress.

Stewart returned as a part-time host on The Daily Show at Comedy Central, subsequently taking a dig at the audience size of Apple TV+ when commenting on the reason for his departure.

“I wanted a place to unload thoughts as we get into this election season. I thought I was going to do it over at, they call it, Apple TV+. It’s a television enclave, very small. It’s like living in Malibu. But they decided, they felt, that they didn’t want me to say things that might get me in trouble.”

Jon Stewart interviews Lina Khan

In an interview with Lina Khan, who chairs the FTC, Stewart said he’d tried to do so while he was with Apple TV+, but the company refused to permit it. Axios reports:

Jon Stewart on Monday told Khan that Apple wouldn’t let him interview her for a podcast […]

“I wanted to have you on a podcast and Apple asked us not to do it,” “The Daily Show” host said to Khan, in reference to his former podcast that was an extension of his Apple TV+ comedy show “The Problem With Jon Stewart.”

“They literally said ‘please don’t talk to her,’ having nothing to do with what you do for a living. I think they just… I didn’t think they cared for you is what happened,” he added during his conversation with Khan.

He also referenced Apple’s ban on him talking about some of the problems with AI.

“They wouldn’t let us do even that dumb thing we just did in the first act on AI. Like, what is that sensitivity? Why are they so afraid to even have these conversations out in the public sphere?”

The piece contrasts Apple’s tight control with that of other broadcast networks. It notes that John Oliver was allowed to criticize AT&T despite the fact that the company was the ultimate owner of the network, and Jimmy Kimmel was permitted to call out claims made on another show made by the same media group.

ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel earlier this year called out incorrect allegations made by Aaron Rodgers on “The Pat McAfee Show” — which airs on ABC’s sister network ESPN.

One element of the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple reads:

Apple’s conduct extends beyond just monopoly profits and even affects the flow of speech. For example, Apple is rapidly expanding its role as a TV and movie producer and had exercised that role to control content.

On the face of it, that seems one of the sillier ones. A TV production company by definition controls content, and free speech only becomes censorship when restricted by the government, not by a private company. Apple’s timidity on content may be disappointing, but it’s not an antitrust issue.

Apple had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.



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