- The CBS legal drama, "The Good Fight," originally planned to air a comedic short that mocked Chinese censorship and President Xi Jinping.
- The clip referenced topics including the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, the country’s stringent censorship of its internet, and American companies capitulating to Chinese demands, The New Yorker and The New York Times cited show executives as saying.
- But CBS decided to remove the clip at the last minute, saying it had "concerns with some subject matter."
- Show executives told The New Yorker and the Times that the network was worried it would affect employees in China.
- The short was replaced with eight-and-a-half seconds of silence and text reading: "CBS has censored this content."
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CBS demanded that one of its TV shows censor a clip that mocked Chinese censorship and President Xi Jinping, reportedly in an effort to appease its Chinese market.
The animated comedic short was set to air during an episode of "The Good Fight," and referenced a range of topics that are censored on China’s internet, also known as the "Great Firewall."
However, during the episode the short was replaced with a message reading "CBS has censored this content." The message appeared for eight-and-a-half seconds.
"The Good Fight," a legal drama spun off from "The Good Wife," often addresses political issues and features satirical animated shorts in the middle of episodes. It has aired episodes that openly criticized US President Donald Trump and referenced memes linked to the far-right in the past.
Reuters; Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
CBS, however, decided to stop the show from airing a musical short that criticized China’s censorship last week. The New Yorker first reported the censorship.
The network previously gave the showrunners approval to air the clip, but changed its mind at the last minute, The New York Times cited Jonathan Coulton, who wrote and performed the short, as saying.
The showrunners "had gotten approval [to run the clip] all along, and at the last minute, a couple of weeks before, they got word that they couldn’t put it in the show," Coulton told the Times.
Tiananmen Square, Winnie the Pooh, and the letter N
The clip — titled "Banned in China" — had included references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and the country’s temporary censorship of the letter N on social media, which people used to criticize Xi’s removal of presidential term limits last year, The New Yorker and the Times reported.
It also made fun of Xi by mentioning Winnie the Pooh, the fictional bear whose image is banned in China because critics often compare it to the country’s president, the two outlets reported.
It also discussed "companies censoring themselves in order to appease the Chinese market," The New Yorker cited the show’s creator, Michelle King, as saying.
A CBS All Access spokeswoman told Business Insider in a Wednesday statement that the network had "concerns with some subject matter in the episode’s animated short."
"This is the creative solution that we agreed upon with the producers," the spokeswoman added, referring to the blackout.
King and Coulton didn’t detail CBS’s internal discussions, but both said that the network were concerned that the clip could harm company employees in China, according to The New Yorker and the Times.
Another controversial China criticism aired in the same episode
The same episode of "The Good Fight" aired another controversial criticism of China: that of its unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority living in the country’s Xinjiang region.
In the episode, a fictional Uighur activist named Fatima discussed China’s detaining at least one million Uighurs in re-education camps, where authorities are "changing our religious beliefs."
People held in the camps are "ordered to sing hymns praising the Communist Party and write self-criticism essays," Fatima said.
The clip below shows Fatima accusing Chumhum, a fictional internet company, of "cooperating" with Chinese authorities to censor her warnings and to round up her relatives still in the country.
It’s not clear why CBS aired the discussion of China’s Uighurs, but not the song about censorship.
"The Good Wife," which aired from 2009 to 2016 was banned in China, likely over an episode that featured a Chinese dissident who was tortured. "The Good Fight" is not censored in China, as of Wednesday.
Business Insider has contacted CBS for comment.
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