Byron Allen’s Racial Discrimination Suit Against Comcast, Charter Headed to Supreme Court

Allen’s Entertainment Studios sued both Comcast and Charter in 2016, accusing both of racial discrimination in not carrying company’s TV networks

Last Updated: June 10, 2019 @ 11:04 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear Comcast’s challenge to a racial discrimination lawsuit from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios over the cable company’s decision not to carry Allen’s TV networks.

In two separate 2016 lawsuits, Entertainment Studios, along with the National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), accused Comcast and Charter of racial discrimination and violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. section 1981.

A district court dismissed the complaint, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and allowed Allen’s suit to go forward. Charter and Comcast are seeking to have the Supreme Court reverse that decision, arguing that they chose not to carry the channels based on “legitimate business reasons, such as limited bandwith and other operational considerations.”

The argument stems from both companies deciding not to carry Entertainment Studios’ TV networks — the lawsuit was filed in 2016, two years before Allen’s company purchased The Weather Channel. Entertainment Studios’ sued Comcast for $20 million and Charter for $10 million.

“Comcast has an outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming, including programming from African-American owned channels, two more of which we launched earlier this year.  There has been no finding of discriminatory conduct by Comcast against this plaintiff because there has been none,” Comcast said in a statement. “We carry more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences.  In light of this record, much of which plaintiffs’ complaint itself acknowledged, it is not surprising that the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination three times, finding them utterly without merit.  We believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision was incorrectly decided.  At this stage, the case is about a technical point of law that was decided in a novel way by the Ninth Circuit.  We hope the Supreme Court will reverse the Ninth Circuit’s unusual interpretation of the law and bring this case to an end.”

The Supreme Court on Monday only agreed to take up Comcast’s case; the court has yet to make a decision on Charter’s petition.

“We have already prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and we are highly confident we will also prevail in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Allen said in a statement. “Today’s announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court is historic, and we are on the right side of history.

“Unfortunately, Comcast continues to mislead the American people and its subscribers. This case is NOT about African American-themed programming, but IS about African American OWNERSHIP of networks. Unfortunately, the networks Comcast refers to as ‘African American-owned’ are not WHOLLY-owned by African Americans, and did not get ANY carriage until I stood up and spoke out about this discrimination and economic exclusion.

“Comcast — one of the biggest lobbyists in Washington, DC — will continue to lose this case, and the American people who stand against racial discrimination will win.”