John Oliver’s UK Elections Episode Won’t Air on TV in the UK

Last Week Tonight had its regular programming schedule interrupted for the second time in less than a month, this time in John Oliver‘s native UK.

Oliver devoted the bulk of his most recent episode to the upcoming UK general election that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak surprised the nation by announcing (in the pouring rain) in May, and which could very well lead to the historic collapse of Britain’s Conservative party.

It was a scathing 25-minute tirade that got a ton of viral attention. So when Sky Comedy, Last Week Tonight’s broadcasting partner in the UK, failed to air the episode on Monday night, viewers worried that it had been flagged by censors.

However, the scheduling change was the result of British broadcasting’s strict adherence to “due impartiality” ahead of a general election. So instead of airing the episode in its regular time slot, it had to go the straight-to-streaming route, which is considered video-on-demand content and thus faces less scrutiny in regards to impartiality regulations.

Early Tuesday morning, Deadline ran an exclusive story explaining the reasoning for the change, which the official Last Week Tonight X (formerly Twitter) account encouraged viewers to read: 

An undisclosed source at Sky confirmed to Deadline that the episode would be presented “unedited and include Oliver’s 30-minute segment on the election” and noted that “elements from the show are already going viral on social media in the UK.”

It’s not Oliver’s first issue with Sky. The broadcaster edited portions of a 2022 episode of Last Week Tonight in which Oliver joked about Queen Elizabeth II following her death.

It’s also not the first time this month that Oliver’s show rubbed international censors the wrong way.

Earlier this month, an episode of Last Week Tonight that criticized India’s contentious elections and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was censored in the country. In that case, Oliver had expected the censorship. So the show set up two phony websites where his entire 25-minute exposé would hopefully fly under the radar of India’s government. (Both sites are still live, with the fully intact segment embedded.)

Oliver also had an episode censored in 2019, when Disney+ Hotstar (the show’s streaming partner in India at the time) removed an episode that was also critical of Modi.

1 Comment

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  1. Blue Moon says:

    You are way behind. John Oliver’s show is being REGULARLY edited by censors in the UK (mostly when discussing subjects concerning the royals). Episodes have also been banned in Saudi Arabia (expose on McKinsey firm and its entanglement with SA government), Thailand (criticism of the monarchy), Israel (because “Hamas propaganda”), India (criticism of Modi 2x), etc etc.
    His segment on pro-Palestine campus protests has been banned on tiktok, and the 2021 segment where he called Israel an apartheid state has been wiped off from everywhere.
    Several “problematic” episodes have been age-restricted on youtube (now requiring verification with personal data) despite not violating any rules.