Washington, DC â€” The National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) and Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc., on Friday, February 20, 2015, filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharptonâ€™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% African American-owned media in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. section 1981.
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% African American-owned media companies.â€œI had no choice but to file this lawsuit,â€ said Byron Allen, Chairman and Founder of Entertainment Studios Networks. â€œEveryone talks about diversity, but diversity in Hollywood and the media starts with ownership. African Americans donâ€™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 (Comcastâ€™s Chairman and CEO) to his face this weekend, that we have filed a $20 billion suit against Comcast. Our lawsuit seeks to stop Comcastâ€™s Jim Crow policies and collusion with our elected officials in order to continue its exclusion of 100% African American-owned media.â€
He adds, â€œI 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 â€“ Wall Street and D.C. regulators are watching to see if heâ€™s smart enough to fix this problem, or dumb enough to fight to maintain his companyâ€™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.â€
â€œComcast 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,â€ said Mark DeVitre, President of NAAAOM. â€œThese 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 Cableâ€™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.â€
According to the lawsuit, Comcast and Time Warner, who are currently in the process of merging into one of the worldâ€™s largest media companies, make major cash donations to non-media civil rights organizations in order to buy their approval of the companiesâ€™ discriminatory business practices as it relates to African Americans. The lawsuit states that these organizations, which are not media/channel owners, are paid for their endorsements with cash and other consideration, like Sharptonâ€™s low-rated, nightly series on MSNBC, and that these endorsements also include their signatures on Comcast-authored â€œMemoranda of Understandingâ€ (MOU) which proscribe a â€œminorityâ€ consideration process for the launch of African American channels. Even though Sharpton and others signed such an MOU which enabled Comcast to get its $36 billion NBC-Universal merger approved by the FCC and DOJ, the MOU has not resulted in the launch of any 100% African American-owned cable channels. Instead, they launch channels fronted by African American celebrities but financed and actually owned/controlled by white-owned media and Comcast insiders.
â€œAs with our clientsâ€™ 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. 100% African American-owned media companies, including my clients, have been egregiously harmed and we look forward to obtaining justice for them,â€ 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:
About Entertainment Studios
Entertainment Studios, Inc. owns seven 24-hour HD cable networks: PETS.TV, COMEDY.TV, RECIPE.TV, CARS.TV, ES.TV, MYDESTINATION.TV and JUSTICE CENTRAL.TV. The company also produces, distributes, and sells advertising for 37 television programs, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations. With a library of over 5,000 hours of owned content across multiple genres, Entertainment Studios provides video content to broadcast television stations, cable television networks, mobile devices, multimedia platforms, and the World Wide Web. Our mission is to provide excellent programming to our viewers, online users, and Fortune 500 advertising partners. Chairman and CEO Byron Allen founded the company in 1993. Headquartered in Los Angeles, it has offices in New York, Chicago, Denver, and Raleigh. For more information, visit www.es.tv
NAAAOMâ€™s mission is to eliminate racial discrimination and secure the economic inclusion of truly 100% African American owned media through fair contracting and equal treatment practices. For more information, visit www.NAAAOM.com
Photo: Rev. Al Sharpton