The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear Byron Allen's $20 billion suit against Comcast. The case is about Allen's Entertainment Studios and Comcast declining to carry the Entertainment Studios' group of networks. Entertainment Studios also sued Charter Communications, saying that both companies violated the Civil Rights Act and discriminated against ES because it is Black-owned.
Comcast has argued that it must be showing that "racial animus was the motivating factor leading to a programming decision in order for a discrimination case to prevail." Entertainment Studios' lawyers have argued that "after years of being passed over for white-owned networks, Entertainment Studios sued Comcast for racial discrimination in contracting." The complaint had been dismissed by a district court but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals let it proceed. Charter and Comcast have said that the decision to carry the networks was based on "legitimate business reasons, such as limited bandwidth and other operational considerations."
In a statement, Comcast says, “Comcast has an outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming, including programming from African-American owned channels, two more of which we launched earlier this year. There has been no finding of discriminatory conduct by Comcast against this plaintiff because there has been none. We carry more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences. In light of this record, much of which plaintiffs’ complaint itself acknowledged, it is not surprising that the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination three times, finding them utterly without merit. We believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision was incorrectly decided. At this stage, the case is about a technical point of law that was decided in a novel way by the Ninth Circuit. We hope the Supreme Court will reverse the Ninth Circuit’s unusual interpretation of the law and bring this case to an end.”
Allen says in a statement: “We have already prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and we are highly confident we will also prevail in the U.S. Supreme Court. Today’s announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court is historic, and we are on the right side of history. Unfortunately, Comcast continues to mislead the American people and its subscribers. This case is NOT about African American-themed programming, but IS about African American OWNERSHIP of networks. Unfortunately, the networks Comcast refers to as ‘African American-owned’ are not WHOLLY-owned by African Americans, and did not get ANY carriage until I stood up and spoke out about this discrimination and economic exclusion. Comcast — one of the biggest lobbyists in Washington, DC — will continue to lose this case, and the American people who stand against racial discrimination will win.”
Photo: Arnold Turner