[A] legal war has broken out between Byron Allen, an African-American comedian, Rev. Al Sharpton, the NAACP and one of the country’s most disliked corporations – Comcast.
In the midst of a proposed $45 billion merger, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been hit with a $20 billion lawsuit that alleges discrimination against 100% African American owned businesses.
Along with the two companies, Rev. Al Sharpton and the NAACP are listed in the suit as conspirators. Both are accused of falsely promoting a sense of diversity following a contract Comcast signed with both parties around the time of its acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2010.
The suit was filed last week in the U.S. District Court of California. It was brought forth by The National Association of African American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios, a media company owned by comedian and TV producer Byron Allen.
Allen has spearheaded the effort with intense criticism for the cable providers, analogizing the prejudice to Jim Crow laws and referring to the exclusion of Black owned businesses as “financial genocide.”
|Comedian Byron Allen isn’t playing around. He filed a $20 Billion lawsuit against Comcast and another one against DirectTV and AT&T.|
“I had no choice but to file this lawsuit,” Byron Allen said. “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.”
The suit points out that despite more than $25 billion in annual carriage fees and advertising expenditures, Comcast and TWC collectively spend less than $3 million in business dealings with African American-owned media corporations.
An executive with the company allegedly told Allen that Comcast didn’t want to create “another Bob Johnson.”
In addition to the claims of years-long racial bigotry, the lawsuit and Allen makes accusations against the current and former FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker.
Both are respectively accused of colluding with Comcast for the benefit of the company in the case of its $36 billion merger with NBCU in 2010.
According to Allen, Clyburn’s father has received donations from both Comcast and AT&T and Baker accepted an executive position with Comcast, three months after voting in favor of the company’s NBCU deal.
The latest lawsuit from Byron Allen’s media company and NAAAOM comes just months after they filed a similar suit for $10 billion against AT&T and DirecTV.
Both lawsuits hinge on the same interpretation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act as modified as a part of a 1991 statute. The updated section extended protections against racial discrimination in the private sector.
Separately, both Comcast and Sharpton publicly commented on the allegations on Monday (Feb. 23). Sharpton took a dig at Allen’s media holdings in an interview with Variety, saying, they were “below the standards of what we wanted to support” and even opened up the possibility of a countersuit for defamation.
Comcast similarly dismissed the lawsuit in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “We do not generally comment on pending litigation, but this complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations,” the company said in a statement.
The lawsuit is unlikely to affect the outcome of Comcast’s proposed $45 billion buyout of Time Warner. Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis commented positively on the prospects of the deal going through early this year. “We are optimistic and feel comfortable,” he told the AP yesterday. The deal brings the possibility of consolidating up to 30% of the country’s paying cable subscribers under Comcast’s purview.