The suit, similar to earlier complaints filed against Comcast and AT&T, claim that Charter has shown racial bias in its refusal to carry channels offered by Entertainment Studios, the company owned by comedian-turned-entrepreneur Allen. The latest suit maintains that the FCC facilitates discriminatory activity by approving mega mergers such as the 2011 union of Comcast and NBCUniversal, which makes it harder for African-American-owned independent companies to compete.
“The FCC works hand-in-hand with these merging television distribution companies to enable and facilitate their Civil Rights violations,” the complaint states. “The FCC’s apparent standard operating procedure is to obtain and accept sham diversity commitments from merger applicants, in excess of its statutory duties.”
Allen’s complaints also take aim once again at other African-American figures including Rev. Al Sharpton, calling him a “token” whose endorsement of merger deals is bought off by donations from big media companies to his National Action Network. Critics say Allen is playing the race card to gain advantage in business that his lifestyle and entertainment channels would otherwise not warrant from large distributors.
The complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles, details Allen’s attempts to meet with Charter CEO Tom Rutledge and other execs. The timing of the suit is clearly an effort to exert pressure as the FCC is in the final stages of its review of Charter’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Allen protested TW Cable’s now-scuttled merger agreement with Comcast on the same grounds.
“This is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors,” Charter said in a statement.
Last month, Allen settled his lawsuit against AT&T at the same time that the telco giant added seven Entertainment Studios-owned channels to DirecTV’s lineup. AT&T was also vulnerable to PR pressure last year as it sought to close its $48 billion takeover of DirecTV.
Earlier this month, Charter outlined its pledge to increase diversity in the ranks of its 23,000 employees in a memorandum of understanding inked with six national advocacy orgs, including Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Urban League and the National Council of La Raza. The commitments include the appointment of three board members who are African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American within two years of the closing of the Time Warner Cable acquisition and the appointment of a chief diversity officer.