Byron Allen Wins On Appeal To Sue Comcast, Charter $30B For Civil Rights Violations

Written by Ann Brown

A judge has ruled that Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Network can go ahead with multibillion-dollar racial discrimination lawsuits against two of the country’s biggest cable operators — Comcast and Charter Communications.

Federal District Court Judge George H. Wu denied Charter Communications’ motion to dismiss a $10-billion lawsuit for racial discrimination in contracting, in violation of the Civil Rights Act.


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Allen is also suing Comcast for $20 billion.

For years, Allen said he attempted to get Comcast and Charter to carry his networks to no avail. Charter’s former senior vice president of programming, Allan Singer, refused to meet with Entertainment Studios representatives. Singer gave “disingenuous” explanations as to why Charter refused to carry ESN’s programming, according to court documents. Allen alleges race was a factor.

Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios Network can go ahead with the multibillion-dollar racial discrimination lawsuits against the cable operators. Their channels include Pets TV, Comedy TV, Recipe TV, Justice Central TV, and The Weather Channel, which was recently acquired.

Entertainment Studios Network officials were understandably happy with the most recent ruling.

“Today was a huge victory for my client,” said attorney Skip Miller, a partner with Miller Barondess, LLP in Los Angeles and lead counsel for the plaintiff. “The $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuit will move forward against Charter Communications…We have evidence of racial bias harbored by top-level Charter executives with decision-making authority, and allege, in detail, the discriminatory treatment ESN suffered at the hands of these executives.”

Byron Allen
Byron Allen, CEO and Chairman of Entertainment Studios, seen at Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures “47 Meters Down” Los Angeles Premiere at Regency Village Theatre on Monday, June 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures/AP Images)

“Everybody talks about diversity, and everybody complains about the lack of diversity and economic inclusion,” said Allen, founder, chairman, and CEO of Entertainment Studios Network, in a prepared statement when the lawsuit was filed in 2016. “Today, we made history by doing something about it. This lawsuit was filed to provide distribution and real economic inclusion for 100 percent African American-owned media. The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100 percent African American-owned media receives ZERO. This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100 percent African American-owned media.”

Less than a year ago, Entertainment Studios Network was victorious in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against AT&T in 2014. The lawsuit was settled and led to AT&T subsidiary DirecTV picking up seven ESN channels, Shadow and Act reported. AT&T settled with Entertainment Studios Network.

Allen has a similar racial discrimination lawsuit pending against Time Warner Cable as well.

Charter and Comcast issued separate statements, expressing disappointment with the ruling.

“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” Comcast said in a statement.

Charter called the allegations of racial discrimination a “desperate tactic.”

“This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors,” said Charter in a statement to Deadline. “We are disappointed with today’s decision and will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims.”

The court documents, however, demonstrate evidence of racial bias. There one instance when “Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters and told them ‘to get off welfare’. Charter CEO Tom Rutledge referred to Allen as ‘boy’ at an industry event, court documents allege,” according to Deadline.

In its summary of the case’s history, the appeals court stated, “Plaintiffs suggest that these incidents are illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism. It also noted that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men.

The National Association of African American-Owned Media is also involved in the lawsuits.

 

 

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About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.