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Byron Allen Spares No One in Accusing Comcast of Racial Bias
Nov. 23, 2019 | The New York Times | By John Eligon.

The black entrepreneur has gone after civil rights groups and other black leaders to make his case. Some fear that protections dating to 1866 are in jeopardy.

Entrepreneur, Byron Allen, offers his life story as a model of African-American economic success.....Byron filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast in 2015, contending that Comcast, after discussing a deal to carry six of his company’s channels, had turned it down in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The nation’s oldest federal civil rights law, it gives “all persons” the same right “enjoyed by white citizens” to “make and enforce contracts” and “to sue.”.......the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled last year that a lower district court had “improperly dismissed” it. Comcast appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case......At stake before the court in oral arguments on Nov. 13 was not the specifics of his dispute with Comcast, but the standard for proving racial discrimination. The justices seemed to focus on the narrow question of whether a plaintiff like Mr. Allen must make the case that racial discrimination was the main factor or just a contributing factor in the early stages of litigation.........Comcast has vigorously defended its record on diversity and refuted Mr. Allen’s claims of discrimination, arguing that the six networks he wants it to distribute are not interesting enough for its lineup or aren’t distinct from current offerings. His demand that Comcast carry all of them in high definition and the price he is asking are unreasonable, the company said.........A key element of Mr. Allen’s argument centers on an agreement Comcast struck with black leaders and organizations in 2010 in order to get clearance to purchase NBCUniversal. As part of the deal, the conglomerate agreed to add four new African-American owned networks over eight years. Two of those networks were owned by Sean Combs, the mogul better known as Diddy, and Magic Johnson, the former basketball star and entrepreneur.
Mr. Allen has argued that the organizations that helped broker the deal — the National Urban League, Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network and the N.A.A.C.P. — were essentially bought off by Comcast, which has donated money to them. The agreement provided only token investment in black-owned networks, Mr. Allen said, and has been used to justify blocking black entrepreneurs from getting a seat at the table......putting black faces out there.....isn't the same things as true economic inclusion......Comcast said it spent $13.2 billion on programming last year, but a spokeswoman declined to say what share of that went to black-owned networks........Sean Combs, surprisingly, has publicly backed Mr. Allen’s point of view and leveled his own criticism against the company for not providing proper support for his television network, Revolt.
“Our relationship with Comcast is the illusion of economic inclusion,” Mr. Combs said.....many black leaders have avoided expressing a firm opinion on whether or not Byron Allen was discriminated against by Comcast........The 2010 agreement between Comcast and the civil rights groups failed to position the black-owned networks for success, said Paula Madison, the former chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal who helped broker the deal. An issue raised during negotiations, Ms. Madison said, was whether the company would guarantee the networks a certain number of subscribers. In the end, Comcast agreed to launch the channels, with no guarantee of how many subscribers they would reach......Ms. Madison said she felt that Comcast had a duty to try to help the new black-owned networks succeed, because they were integral to the company’s gaining federal approval to acquire NBCUniversal. But at a time when streaming becomes dominant and cable operators are looking to shed channels, Ms. Madison said she believed Comcast executives would not blink if the black-owned networks went away.
“It’s laissez-faire,” Ms. Madison said of Comcast’s treatment of the channels. “It’s, ‘They want channels, we’ll give them channels.’”
African-Americans  Byron_Allen  CATV  Comcast  economic_inclusion  entertainment_industry  entrepreneur  lawsuits  moguls  NAACP  racial_bias  racial_discrimination  U.S._Supreme_Court  Weather_Channel 
november 2019 by jerryking
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