Judge George Wu of California’s Central District issued a ruling Friday denying Charter’s motion to dismiss. Allen first filed suit against Charter in 2016, asserting that the cable operator’s refusal to carry his collection of channels was, in part, racially motivated.
Allen has pursued litigation against major MVPDs since 2015. He has sued on the grounds that corporate giants, including AT&T and Comcast, have violated a civil rights law that dates back to the post-Civil War era mandating that Black people must have the same right to make and enforce contracts as white people. Comcast appealed its lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court last year.
Comcast got a favorable ruling from the high court on a narrow aspect of the case involving the burden of proof. Comcast and Allen reached a settlement earlier this year that involved Comcast picking up three of Entertainment Studios’ niche cable channels: Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV and JusticeCentral.TV. Entertainment Studios owns a suite of seven lifestyle-oriented cable channels in addition to the Weather Channel and a growing portfolio of local TV stations.
Charter’s opposition to Allen’s amended lawsuit leaned on the issues raised on Comcast’s appeals. Judge Wu ultimately ruled that Allen has made enough plausible claims of discrimination in its dealings with Charter that the lawsuit should move forward.
“Charter once again tried to claim in a court of law that the First Amendment gives them the right to discriminate against Black people. This is a despicable, racist legal position and I’m highly confident Charter CEO Tom Rutledge and the Charter Board of Directors will be held fully accountable,” said Allen, who is chairman-CEO of Entertainment Studios/Allen Media Group.
In a statement, Charter said promoting diversity and inclusion are “core objectives” across the company.
“Charter offers programming services produced by minority-owned companies, including several owned by Byron Allen,” the company said. “Decisions on which networks to carry are based on business considerations, such as cost, quality, uniqueness of content, and customer demand. We are disappointed by this ruling, and stand by our position that race played no role whatsoever in our programming decision regarding these networks and we will continue to vigorously defend against these false claims.”
(Pictured: Byron Allen)