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Judge Tosses Racial Bias Lawsuit Against Comcast, Al Sharpton and NAACP

A federal district court judge has thrown out a lawsuit claiming that Comcast and Time Warner Cable were shutting out African-American owned channels from their lineups.

U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter tossed the lawsuit filed by  the National Assn. of African American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks, the media company founded by comedian Byron Allen, on the grounds that they “failed to allege a plausible claim for relief.”

The lawsuit, 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, in securing approval for its 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal, reached memorandums of understanding with a number of civil rights groups that were a “sham” to “whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”

The MOUs called for Comcast to carry 10 new independently owned channels by 2020, four of which will be African American owned and managed. The suit contends that the only 100% owned African American channel Comcast has agreed to broadcast is the Africa Channel, and that it is owned by Paula Madison, formerly chief diversity officer for NBC Universal, who was involved in putting together the MOUs.

Comcast called the lawsuit “frivolous,” and Sharpton said there was “no basis” for the litigation.

In filings, 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.

Update: In a statement, Allen said that “knowing that our lawsuit helped the FCC and DOJ deny Comcast’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable is already a big win for us. We are going to immediately appeal this decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who I believe will deliver us a favorable decision.”

 

 

 

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