“I had no choice but to file this lawsuit,” said Byron Allen, chairman and founder of Entertainment Studios Networks. The lawsuit the stand-up comic turned TV producer mega-mogul is referencing was filed on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.
The National Association of African American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks Inc. filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Sharpton’s National Action Network, former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, NAACP, and The National Urban League for conspiring to and engaging in racial discrimination in contracting against 100 percent African American-owned media in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. section 1981.
“Everyone talks about diversity, but diversity in Hollywood and the media starts with ownership. African Americans don’t need handouts and donations; we can hire ourselves if white corporate America does business with us in a fair and equitable way. I was proud to tell Brian Roberts (Comcast’s Chairman and CEO) to his face this weekend, that we have filed a $20 billion suit against Comcast.” Allen continues, “Our lawsuit seeks to stop Comcast’s Jim Crow policies and collusion with our elected officials in order to continue its exclusion of 100% African American-owned media. I have grave concerns that the only African American FCC commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, who was the deciding, favorable FCC vote on the $36 billion Comcast-NBCU merger and whose father, Representative Clyburn, has taken donations from Comcast and AT&T, will again fail us, as her former colleague, Meredith Attwell Baker (former FCC commissioner) did by voting for the NBCU merger and, 90 days later, taking a highly paid, executive job with Comcast. With President Obama and the FCC bought and paid for, they have left 100% African American-owned media with no choice but to fight for our rights. This is a defining moment for Mr. Roberts – Wall Street and D.C. regulators are watching to see if he’s smart enough to fix this problem, or dumb enough to fight to maintain his company’s indisputable, indefensible and unacceptable racist business practices. With this suit and the AT&T/DirecTV suit, as well as many others to follow, NAAAOM and I intend to stop these corporate racist atrocities and the resulting, African American financial genocide today. This is not the America I am going to leave to my children.
“Comcast and Time Warner have too long avoided launching 100% African American-owned cable channels or dedicating any of their huge advertising budgets to 100% African American-owned media companies,” said Mark DeVitre, President of NAAAOM. “These companies sell their services to, and receive billions from, African American consumers, yet offer them no channels which they truly own. Not only is this counter to Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s obligations to the public under the First Amendment, but as we say in our lawsuit, the purposeful ways in which they go about discriminating against 100% African American-owned media companies is a clear violation of their civil rights. NAAAOM intends to shine a bright light on this institutionalized racism until the discrimination stops.”
The lawsuit states that Comcast and its proposed merger partner, Time Warner Cable, have engaged in long-term racial discrimination in contracting with 100% African American-owned media companies. Comcast, in particular, conspired with governmental regulators, including Baker, and non-media civil rights groups and so-called leaders, including Sharpton and the NAACP, to continue such discrimination in connection with its 2010, $36 billion acquisition of NBC-Universal. The suit further states that of the over $25 billion spent annually by Comcast and Time Warner Cable on cable channel carriage fees and advertising, less than $3 million is spent with 100 percent African American-owned media companies.
“As with our clients’ lawsuit against AT&T and DirecTV, this action further calls into question how these giant media corporations deal with 100 percentAfrican American-owned media. We are looking forward to our day in Federal Court, and to explaining to the judge and jury the discriminatory way Comcast and Time Warner, as well as AT&T and DirecTV, have operated their businesses and how they work with government regulators and non-media civil rights organizations to hide their institutionalized racist behavior. 100% African American-owned media companies, including my clients, have been egregiously harmed and we look forward to obtaining justice for them,” said Skip Miller, partner at Miller Barondess, LLP in Los Angeles and lead trial counsel for the plaintiff.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, can be accessed at http://bit.ly/naaaom-complaint.