*Comcast is firing back against a $20 billion lawsuit that claims the company discriminates on the basis of race against 100% African American–owned media, and has given money or jobs to several civil rights groups in exchange for their public support in a proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.
The National Association of African-American Owned Media and the Byron Allen-founded Entertainment Studios Network alleges “discriminatory business practices” by the mega cable companies, the NAACP, MSNBC host Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, and others.
“Defendants intentionally agreed and conspired with each other to discriminate on the basis of race against 100% African American–owned media in connection with contracting,” says the complaint filed Friday in federal court in California. “Defendants NAACP, National Urban League, Al Sharpton, National Action Network and Meredith Attwell Baker acted as co-conspirators by accepting cash payments, jobs and other favors from Comcast in exchange for their public support and approval of Comcast’s racist policies and practices in contracting for channel carriage,” adds the 30-page filing, which seeks a jury trial.
“In exchange for these payouts and other favors, Defendants NAACP, National Urban League, Al Sharpton and his National Action Network agreed to enter into sham ‘diversity agreements’—MOUs—for the purpose of facilitating Comcast’s racial discrimination in contracting.” Sharpton’s NAA allegedly got $3.8 million in donations and the Reverend got his annual take home pay of around $750,000 as host of MSNBC’s ‘PoliticsNation,’ that debuted in 2011.
Comcast has denied the allegations in a statement released this morning:
Here’s the statement from Comcast:
We do not generally comment on pending litigation, but this complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations. We are proud of our outstanding record supporting and fostering diverse programming, including programming from African American owned and controlled cable channels. We currently carry more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences, including multiple networks owned or controlled by minorities.
Diversity organizations from across the country, including numerous diverse programmers, have supported our transaction with Time Warner Cable. That deal will extend our industry-leading commitment to diverse programming to even more homes across America, one of the reasons so many groups in the African American community have supported it.
Comcast has engaged in good faith negotiations with this programmer for many years. It is disappointing that they have decided to file a frivolous lawsuit. We will defend vigorously against the scurrilous allegations in this complaint and fully expect that the court will dismiss them.