A Federal judge has ordered a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Comcast and Time Warner Cable be reopened less than two weeks after it was dismissed.
Judge Terry Hatter issued a ruling Wednesday reopening the suit filed by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. and the National Association of African-American Owned Media ("NAAAOM").
"We will not stop until the discrimination stops and we achieve true economic inclusion," Allen, the founder, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios, said in a statement to TheWrap.
Mark DeVitre, President of NAAAOM continued: "We will continue to vigorously pursue Comcast and Time Warner Cable, who spend approximately $25 billion annually licensing cable networks with less than $3 million going to 100 percent African-American owned media."
The lawsuit, which also named the NAACP, was filed in May by the National Association of African-American Owned Media and Entertainment Studio Networks. The co-plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were blocking equal access for black-owned networks.
It stated that the groups collaborated to make Comcast/NBCUniversal appear to fight for diversity, but instead kept 100-percent black-owned networks out of the mix. One of the payoffs, the plaintiffs alleged, was the MSNBC show Sharpton hosts, which they say MSNBC owner Comcast gave to Sharpton in exchange for his signature on diversity agreements.
"Comcast spent millions of dollars to pay non-media civil rights groups to support its acquisition of NBC-Universal, while at the same time refusing to do business with 100 percent African-American owned media companies," the suit read. "These payments were a ruse made with an ulterior motive: To make Comcast look like a good corporate citizen while it steadfastly refused to contract with 100 percent African American-owned channels."
"I have always believed in this historic case," Louis R. (Skip) Miller, partner at Miller Barondess, L.L.P. and lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday. "I am confident we will prevail."
Judge Hatter concluded on Aug. 7 that "the plaintiffs have failed to allege any plausible claim for relief," but he has now given them a second chance.
They have until Sept. 21, 2015 in which to file an amended complaint.