You might feel like you’ve read this one before – and you have, kind of. Less than a month after Byron Allen got AT&T and DirecTV carriage deals after charging them with racial discrimination in a $10 billion lawsuit, he’s got some new targets. Today, both the Federal Communications Commission and Charter Communications were sued for $10 billion in federal court by Allen’s Entertainment Studios and the National Association of African-American Owned Media for “racial discrimination in contracting for television channel carriage.”
“President Obama and the Democratic Party have completely excluded the African-American community when it comes to economic inclusion,” Allen said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
And that includes the FCC, according to today’s lawsuit.
“A driving purpose of the Federal Communications Act and the First Amendment is to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse sources,” the jury seeking complaint (read it here) says of the Obama administration body. “Yet the FCC has done nothing to protect the voices of African-American-owned media companies in the face of increased media consolidation,” it adds, noting the proposed $55 billion merger of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable. “Instead, the FCC works hand-in-hand with these merging television distribution companies to enable and facilitate their Civil Rights violations. The FCC’s apparent standard operating procedure is to obtain and accept sham diversity commitments from merger applicants, in excess of its statutory duties.”
And if the FCC got hit hard by Allen and NAAAOM, Charter and its execs really took a blow.
“At the direction of its President and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Rutledge, Defendant Charter Communications has intentionally excluded African-American-owned media companies, including Plaintiff Entertainment Studios, from contracting for carriage on its television distribution platform,” the complaint adds. “Rutledge did this himself and by and through his subordinates, including Allan Singer, Senior Vice President of Programming at Charter,” the 27-page filing notes, calling Rutledge, “a blatant racist.”
Today’s filing is the second such suit that Allen and NAAAOM have in the courts against the telecommunications giants right now. A $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable was originally filed February 23, then dismissed by U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. on August 7, and then revived by him on August 19. On September 21, Allen and NAAAOM filed an amended complaint, which Comcast asked to be dismissed on October 21. While the matter is still before the courts, TWC was dismissed as a defendant from the case last fall with its merger with Comcast stopped short. Called a “token” and mentioned repeatedly in today’s suit, Al Sharpton and his National Action Network exited from the Comcast case in September. The NAACP and the Urban League also were dropped from the ongoing Comcast suit late last year.
As they did in the AT&T and DirecTV suit and are in the Comcast case, Louis “Skip” Miller’s Miller Barondess LLP is representing Allen’s ESN and NAAAOM in this matter.