On the heels of an all-white Oscar season, the National Association of African American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks have filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable on charges of racial discrimination.
Byron Allen, chairman and founder of Entertainment Studios Networks, released the following statement: “I had no choice but to file this lawsuit. 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 launched Entertainment Studios in Los Angeles in 1993. The company produces, distributes and sells advertising for 32 television series.
According to an online post from 2011, the trouble started when Comcast failed to live up to its agreement “to add at least three independent cable networks with substantial [minority] ownership interest over three years.” Comcast agreed to the arrangement in order to obtain approval to merge with NBC Universal in a $36 billion deal.
“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,” said Allen.
“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 alleges that Comcast and Time Warner Cable, who are set to merge, “make major cash donations to non-media civil rights organizations in order to buy their approval of the companies’ discriminatory business practices as it relates to African Americans.” The Reverend Al Sharpton, the NAACP, and the National Urban League are also named in the suit.
NAAAOM and Entertainment Studios have retained counsel with Miller Barondess, LLP.
“As with our clients’ lawsuit against AT&T and DirecTV, this action further calls into question how these giant media corporations deal with 100% African 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,” said Skip Miller, partner at Miller Barondess, LLP.
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