Allen — who this summer purchased TheGrio — and the National Association of African-American Owned Media say Charter conspired to keep black-owned media off cable TV.
Is St. Louis-based Charter Communications, which recently merged with Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to form one of the country’s largest cable companies, guilty of racial discrimination against black-owned media?
A federal judge presiding over a $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuit filed by entrepreneur Byron Allen believes a lawsuit filed by Allen making those allegations deserves full consideration.
Federal District Court Judge George Wu has rejected a bid by Charter to toss out the lawsuit filed by Allen’s company, Entertainment Studios, and the National Association of African-American Owned Media.
Allen and the organization are charging Charter has engaged in “racial discrimination in contracting for television channel carriage” — meaning Charter allegedly has conspired to keep black-owned media off its cable channels.
Skip Miller, an attorney for Allen said in a press release: “We have evidence of racial bias harbored by top level Charter executives with decision-making authority, and allege, in detail, the discriminatory treatment ESN (Entertainment Studios) suffered at the hands of these executives.”
Allen is most known for his work as a comedian and television producer, but he is also a busy executive with an affinity for black-owned media. In June, he purchased TheGrio, a leading website targeting African-American audiences. TheGrio was looking for a partner capable of helping the site grow its plans for digital video production, including possible syndication across cable networks.
“We are excited to have TheGrio join Byron Allen’s ever-expanding Entertainment Studios media empire,” David A. Wilson, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of TheGrio, said at the time. “Byron shares our vision of growing TheGrio into the leading video content creator and distribution platform for African-Americans. We look forward to developing the next iteration of TheGrio, and the fact that it will remain 100 percent African American-owned is very significant.”
With The Grio in his portfolio and the lawsuit against Charter progressing, Allen is bullish about the possibilities.
“This lawsuit was filed to provide distribution and real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media,” Allen said. “The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100% African American-owned media receives zero. This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media.”
Mark DeVitre, president of the National Association of African American-Owned Media also said in the press release:
“Charter will now have to open up all their contracts which will show the world that they do not do business with 100% African American-owned media out of the billions of dollars they spend on programming every year.
“Simply put, the contracts and the numbers do not lie, and they will show racial discrimination, lack of economic inclusion for African American-owned media, and blatant racism. In my opinion, Charter’s CEO, Tom Rutledge, has done his stockholders a huge disservice by not sitting down with us, but instead pretending Reverend Al Sharpton speaks for all African Americans which in itself is racist.”
In May, Allen filed a similar suit — for $20 billion — against cable giant Comcast. A judge dismissed the case but Allen and his partners are appealing that decision.