Comcast sued: $20 Billion Over Race Discrimination

Are two cable giants standing in the way of diversity on television?

Television producer Byron Allen seems to think so. He’s part of a $20 billion lawsuit filed against Comcast and Time Warner, accusing the companies of blocking the distribution of minority-owned media. Allen, along with the National Association of African-American Owned Media, accuse Comcast and Time Warner of preferring working with “black” networks that are not black-owned.

Allen owns the TV production and distribution company Entertainment Studios and claims he has been unable to get a distribution deal with Comcast/Time Warner because of discrimination.

“100% African American–owned media has been shut out by Comcast,” the lawsuit alleges. “Of the approximately $11 billion in channel carriage fees that Comcast pays to license television channels each year, less than $3 million is paid to 100% African American–owned media.”

Also named in the suit are several Civil Rights organizations and leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton, who is currently a host on MSNBC, and his organization, National Action Network. The suit accuses Sharpton, NAN, the NAACP and the National Urban League of facilitating discrimination, of taking money from the cable behemoths to provide cover for their discriminatory practices.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

At the time of Comcast’s 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast entered into memoranda of understanding with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, but the lawsuit says the voluntary diversity agreements are “a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”

The plaintiff objects that the only fully black-owned channel picked up by Comcast is the Africa Channel, and that entity is owned by former Comcast/NBCU exec Paula Madison, who “was directly involved in putting together the sham MOUs and obtaining government approval for the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal, thus creating a serious conflict of interest.”

Other black channels are said to be “window dressing,” with black celebrities as “fronts” when they are “white-owned businesses” that are run by friends or family of Comcast executives.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sharpton has publicly said he “welcomes the opportunity to answer the frivolous allegations,” adding he will bring counterclaims of defamation.

Comcast has called the lawsuit “frivolous” and claimed the cable giant had “engaged in good-faith negotiations” with the plaintiffs for many years, adding they expect the court will dismiss the case.

To learn more about the lawsuit and allegations, read The Hollywood Reporter HERE.