Cable giants Comcast and Time Warner — along with Al Sharpton — are being sued by the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) for discrimination.
Comcast and Time Warner recently announced
they were merging. The complaint charges that the companies effectively bought protection from Sharpton and other black advocacy groups against possible claims of racial discrimination, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The association recently sued AT&T and DirecTV for discrimination, and described its mission as promoting
"the economic inclusion of truly 100 percent African-American owned media," according to a press release.
NAAAOM is run by Mark DeVitre
, who also serves as its general counsel. He is a former lawyer for Warner Brothers. It is joined in the lawsuit by Entertainment Studios Networks founded by Byron Allen. DeVitre previously served as general counsel for Entertainment Studios
The racial discrimination lawsuit, filed in California
, is for $20 billion. It alleges that despite billions of dollars in investments, The Africa Channel is the single channel carried by the companies that is black owned.
NAAAOM charges that Sharpton's National Action Network received donations of some $3.8 million from the cable companies. In effect, the companies paid Sharpton, the suit claims, to say that Comcast business dealings met standards of diversity.
The suit further charges that voluntary diversity understandings between other African-American advocacy groups and Comcast were "a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast's discriminatory business practices."
The NAAAOM filing charges that despite "notoriously low ratings," Sharpton was kept on as host of his MSNBC program in return for "continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity," according to the Reporter.
Comcast told the Reporter that it was disappointed NAAAOM "decided to file a frivolous lawsuit." The cable company said it was "proud" of its record fostering diverse programming, including from "African-American owned and controlled cable channels."
It said that it carried "multiple networks owned or controlled by minorities."
Sharpton's group told the Reporter that it was ready to defend its relationship with the cable companies.
"As for Rev. Sharpton's TV show ratings the numbers are clear. Rev. Sharpton's show has the highest ratings of any 6 p.m. show in the history of the network," the National Action Network
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