What you need to know

  • A BuzzFeed report suggests Apple TV+ creators were told not to portray China in a poor light
  • Source claims the instruction came from Eddy Cue and Morgan Wandell.
  • News come in wake of Hong Kong mapping fiasco, Blizzard controversy and more.

A report via BuzzFeed yesterday purports that Apple execs told Apple TV+ content creators to avoid portraying China in a poor light back in 2018.

According to the report:

In early 2018 as development on Apple's slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company's leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple's SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple's ongoing efforts to remain in China's good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple's iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country.

The news has of course come to light amidst a storm of bad press for Apple surrounding its relationship with China, amidst accusations that Apple is deliberately kowtowing to pressure from China over both mapping app HKmap.live and its wider policy of censorship. Apple removed the app, which lets users track protest incidents and police movement, over claims it had been used to target law enforcement. The company was met with widespread outcry as a result.

This latest news from BuzzFeed seems to perpetuate the narrative that Apple is extremely concerned about the opinion of the Chinese government, and will quite happily push aside its values in order to keep its seat at the table in the region.

With regards to the instruction from Cue and Wandell, a showrunner not affiliated with Apple, speaking to BuzzFeed said that the practice was not unusual.

"They all do it... They have to if they want to play in that market. And they all want to play in that market. Who wouldn't?"

The BuzzFeed report also notes that the practice extends, and is perhaps even more stringent when it comes to apps, notably HKmap.live and also Quartz. One US tech executive reportedly told BuzzFeed:

"We just get a phone call from Apple and they say 'We just got a call from the Chinese government' and five minutes later our app is off the App Store... "It's not a line of communication that would be open to any discussion."

"They have so much market power in general and they wield that pretty indiscriminately."

The news is another PR blow to Apple in a saga that seems to be spiralling out of control.