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Judge Will Let Byron Allen’s Company Revive Case Against Comcast, Al Sharpton

A federal judge has reopened a $20 billion racial bias case filed against Comcast and Time Warner Cable, giving plaintiff Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks until Sept. 21 to file an amended complaint.

The lawsuit, first filed in February, also named as defendants the NAACP, the National Urban League, Al Sharpton, the National Action Network, as well as Meredith Attwell Baker, a former Comcast executive and FCC commissioner.

The lawsuit claimed that Comcast was shutting out African-American owned channels from their lineups. In securing approval for its 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal, they reached memorandums of understanding with a number of civil rights groups that were a “sham” to “whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”

But earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, concluding that the plaintiffs had “failed to allege a plausible claim for relief.” On Wednesday, Hatter entered an order, without comment, reopening the case and giving the plaintiffs the opportunity to file an amended complaint. The burden will be on the plaintiffs to overcome Hatter’s original objections.

In a statement, Allen said, “This is an historic case where federal Judge Terry Hatter has an enormous opportunity to tell corporate America that the racism and discrimination must stop and the economic inclusion must begin.”

Allen said in an interview that the amended complaint will provide “greater detail and greater clarity, and I believe we will prevail.” He also said that they plan to file more lawsuits like this one against media conglomerates. The other plaintiff in the Comcast suit is the National Assn. of African American Owned Media.

“We must have economic inclusion, and we will hold the entire ecosystem accountable,” he said. He added that the lawsuit was of “enormous complexity.”

A spokeswoman for Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has previously called the lawsuit “frivolous,” and Sharpton has said there was “no basis” for the litigation.

In its previous complaint, Entertainment Studios Networks charged that Comcast “brazenly stated that it does not want to create any more Black billionaires, such as Bob Johnson, the African American founder of Black Entertainment Television.”

Comcast and other defendants, filing in reply, said that the plaintiffs “provide zero detail on the identity of the speaker or the surrounding circumstances is sufficient to show that this alleged statement is not ‘direct evidence’ of anything. …To say that the Complaint’s allegations are ‘implausible’ under the applicable pleading standard would be a colossal understatement.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

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