Case against Comcast, Time Warner Cable connection Inc., Rev. Al Sharpton as well as the NAACP alleges that the media companies discriminated against black-owned businesses and paid active supporters and workers like Sharpton to “whitewash” its procedures. The complaint alleges that Comcast gave large donations to Sharpton, the NAACP and other civil rights groups to be able to appear that the cable company had been promoting diversity, even while it was not being able to follow through on a promise to do this.
The particular lawsuit, seeking $20 billion, was filed within Los Angeles federal court Friday by Entertainment Studios , a television company founded by black producer and comedian Byron Allen and the National Association associated with African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM). The particular complaint, which comes as regulators mull a $45-billion merger between Comcast and TWC, alleges that Comcast has refused to do business with Allen as well as other black media executives.
“Comcast has involved in, and is engaging in, pernicious, intentional ethnic discrimination in contracting, ” it reads. Whether or not it gets anywhere is another question. Anyone can file case alleging anything and claiming any amount of money.
Both Sharpton and Comcast dismissed the allegations Monday. In an interview with Variety , Sharpton called the lawsuit a “bogus statement from a person who has no credibility” and he told the particular Hollywood Reporter that he will be bringing counterclaims for defamation.
The particular National Action Network also asked Allen’s credibility in its statement to the The show biz industry Reporter.
“We would gladly protect our relationship with any company along with state on the record why we all found these discriminatory accusations manufactured by said party to be less than reputable and beneath the standards that we engage in. ”
[Related: The public life and private doubts of Al Sharpton]
The particular lawsuit also accuses Sharpton, the particular National Action Network (the non-profit civil rights organization he started in 1991), the NAACP as well as the National Urban League, claiming that the particular groups signed “sham diversity agreements” with Comcast in exchange for donations, knowing that the cable company would power the agreements to mask its discriminatory practices.
The complaint particularly calls away Sharpton and his non-profit, which this says “has a business model and track record of obtaining payments from corporate entities in exchange for his support. ” This critique has been flattened at him before, in the Everyday Beast and the New York Post, although neither accusation came of something.
This is the second complaint from Entertainment Studios and NAAAOM, whose president Mark DeVitre is also an executive at Allen’s firm. In December the group filed a $10 billion lawsuit against AT& T and DirectTV, accusing the groups of similar discrimination. No other black-owned companies joined the claims against Comcast.
In sweeping language, this latest complaint accuses Comcast of instituting the “Jim Crow” process for licensing programs, claiming that black-owned channels are only granted “carriage agreements” (contracts allowing companies like Comcast and Time Warner to distribute a programmer’s content) if they agree to terms inferior to those provided to white-owned companies. According to the complaint, black-owned businesses receive just $3 mil of the $15 billion Comcast usually spends on channel carriage and advertising.
Comcast communications director John Demmings had written in an email that the lawsuit had been “frivolous” and that company’s negotiations with the plaintiff have been in good faith.
But Allen, who says he first contacted the distributor seven years ago, mentioned in a phone interview that he’d been put off by Comcast professionals year after year. One executive allegedly informed him that the company was “not trying to create any more Bob Johnsons, ” referring to the millionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television, which was sold to Viacom in 2001 for $3 billion.
“This is why black-owned media is becoming extinct, ” Allen said. “It’s economic genocide. ”
In 2010, Comcast signed a “ memorandum of understanding ” with civil rights groups as part of an effort to win approval for its merger with NBC Universal. In the agreement, the particular cable company committed to adding 10 new minority owned and operated networks, a minimum of four of which would be run by African Americans. Sharpton, who lobbied for the merger in a letter towards the Federal Communications Commission and signed on to the memorandum, said that the company’s 2010 ending up in minority leaders was the most important factor in the decision to support Comcast’s bid.
He was given a job as host for MSNBC’s PoliticsNation in August 2011, six months after the merger was approved — a move that raised questions about a potential conflict of interest. The particular complaint alleges that the position was section of a quid-pro-quo deal for Sharpton’s approval of the merger, as had been $140, 000 in donations in order to his National Action Network. (A Comcast spokesperson confirmed that number in order to the Daily Beast in 2011. )
“They pay him just a little bit of money instead of spending the particular tens of millions and billions they should be paying to the black community, ” Allen said.
Despite the goals laid out within the memorandum, the lawsuit says that Comcast now distributes only one black-owned funnel, the Africa Network, which is operate by a former Comcast executive, which the company’s other purportedly black-owned channels are actually controlled by white-owned companies.
“Defendants NAACP, National Urban League, and Al Sharpton’s National Action System signed onto the MOUs with Comcast knowing — and agreeing — that Comcast would use the MOUs to perpetuate civil legal rights violations against 100% African American–owned media companies, including Entertainment Galleries, ” the complaint reads.
According to the New York Times and Center for Public Integrity investigation published last year, the particular NAACP received $30, 000 within donations from Comcast between 2005 and 2012. The National Urban League, another defendant listed in the particular complaint, received $835, 000. Each organizations expressed support for a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. (For the record, lots of companies routinely and regularly donate money to such groups. )
Talking to Variety, Sharpton said that Allen got approached various civil rights organizations for support in getting their channels carried, but had been turned down because Entertainment Studios’ networks were “below the standards of what we desired to support. ”
Allen’s network operates eight channels and distributes 36 shows including Vehicles. TV, which won an Emmy for “Outstanding Lifestyle Program” this year. According to Allen’s attorney, Skip Burns, Entertainment Studios is the only black-owned multi-channel producer in the U. H. and its content is carried by Verizon, AT& T, RCN and a quantity of other distributors.
A Federal Communications Commission official, who seem to asked not to be named due to the ongoing FCC review of the Comcast-TWC merger, said that Allen is a “legitimate” producer and that the commission need to take his complaint seriously.
“The accusations are serious allegations and they go to the very heart of the Comcast commitment produced under their first merger with NBCU, ” he said, talking about the 2010 memoranda.
If combined, Comcast and Time Warner Cable would control 30 percent of the American TV market , giving it broad control over the kinds of programming that get produced — a well known fact that has become a focal point for opposition to the proposed deal.
“The FCC should look at the impact these allegations in light of what a new proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable entity would look like, ” the official said. “These allegations themselves are based on the core associated with what they’re talking about as related in the review of the merger. ”
The particular commission is anticipated to complete its review of the merger sometime this quarter.
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Lawsuit accuses Comcast, Al Sharpton of discriminating against black-owned mass media