Weather Channel’s Bryon Allen is suing Comcast and Charter for racial bias.
Lawsuits from Byron Allen seek $20 billion against Comcast and $10 billion against Charter for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act. Allen said he tried for years to get the cable giants to carry his networks, which were available to millions of television viewers through rival distributors including Verizon, DirecTV, AT&T, DISH. Allen said he has been constantly rebuffed, and alleges race played a factor.
Charter attempted to have Entertainment Studios Network’s suit dismissed on First Amendment grounds, claiming that its choice of cable channels is a form of expression.
The 9th Circuit court of appeals supported the district court’s ruling today, which found that the First Amendment doesn’t shield Charter from engaging in discriminatory conduct. The appeals court reached a similar decision in the suit against Comcast, sending both cases back to the trial court.
Allen stated,“The lack of true economic inclusion for African Americans will end with me, and these rulings show that I am unwavering in my commitment to achieving this long overdue goal.”
Comcast and Charter issued separate statements, expressing disappointment with the ruling.
Comcast said in a statement, “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options.”
Entertainment Studios Networks a conglomerate of eight channels, including Pets.TV, Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, Justice Central.TV and its recent, high-profile acquisition, the Weather Channel filed suits in federal district court in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles-based media company alleged Charter’s former senior Vice President of programming, Allan Singer, refused to meet with Entertainment Studios representatives. Singer rescheduled and postponed meetings and offered “disingenuous” explanations for refusing to carry it programming, according to court documents.
Court documents found evidence of racial bias, including one incident in which Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters and told them “to get off welfare.” Charter CEO Tom Rutledge referred to Allen as “Boy” at an industry event, court documents allege.
“Plaintiffs suggest that these incidents are illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism,” the Appeals Court writes, in summarizing the case’s history. “Noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men.”
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