UPDATE: Rev. Horace L. Sheffield III, a founding member of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, issued the following statement in response to Byron Allen’s lawsuit against Comcast: “As a media professional, activist on the front lines and a founding member of the National Action Network (NAN) an organization that is dedicated to confronting and challenging social injustice everywhere, I am appalled at Mr. Allen’s assertions and his lawsuit. More than any other MSO, Comcast has provided opportunities for diversity and inclusion in its programming and leadership. Rev. Sharpton and I led protests around the country in opposition to the lack of diversity offered by some of the biggest MSO’s including Cablevison, Wide Open West, Charter, etc… We stood together when former Dish Network founder and CEO Charile Ergen released his dogs on us after we sought quality African American programming on his network. Comcast was the only company to outreach to us and work to achieve comparable aim. The outcomes that Rev. Sharpton has bolstered in his quest to provide equal opportunity and variance for African Americans in front of and behind the camera have not been about forwarding his own personal agenda, but more about empowering his community—something that he works to do every day. It is unfortunate that the Mr. Allen and the National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM), a company headed by a former EVP for Entertainment Studios, (a company owned by Byron Allen) have filed this lawsuit. This suit and allegations does a disservice to those of us, including Rev. Sharpton, who have worked tirelessly to create change and REAL opportunity that benefits the majority as opposed to a select few."
The original report follows below, followed by a new interview with Byron Allen at the end:
What has basically
happened is that, TV producer and mogul Byron Allen, through his production company Entertainment Studios,
along with the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM), has filed
a $20 billion (that’s B as in billion) discrimination lawsuit against Comcast,
Sharpton, Time Warner Cable and other civil rights groups, including the NAACP
and the Urban League.
the lawsuit, Allen accuses Comcast of racism and claims that his production
company, which owns 8 digital channels, has been intentionally unable to secure
distribution on cable systems that are owned by Comcast and Time Warner.
the group have filed also filed a $10 billion suit against AT&T and
His lawsuit alleges
that "one hundred percent African-American-owned media has been shut out
by Comcast. Of the approximately $11 billion in channel-carriage fees that
Comcast pays to license television channels each year, less than $3 million is
paid to 100 percent African-American-owned media."
furthers claims that “Comcast paid Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) more than $3.8 million in donations and as salary (reportedly $750,000 a
year) for the on-screen television-hosting position on MSNBC." And Allen also claims that the NAACP and the Urban
League, in effect, were paid off by Comcast as well.
is why did Comcast payoff Sharpton and his organization, the National Action
Network? And is there a reason why he still has a show on MSNBC, despite poor
ratings, while Joy Ann Reid loses hers? (Though it may be moved soon to weekends; read HERE).
seems to be that, in 2009, when General Electric owned NBC, GE was looking for a
way to unload it. The network was, at that time, in fourth place, and wasn’t
making the kind of money that it used to. Fortunately, they found a buyer in
Needless to say, that caused a lot of concern in Washington, and especially with the FCC which
felt that this potential acquisition could seriously stifle competition. Add to
that, were civil rights groups, such as the NAACP, who were pushing for more diverse representations in the media.
to Allen and the NAAAOM, Comcast, which never had any interest in, or intention to incorporate any sort of diversity initiatives, began making cash payouts to these
groups. In exchange, they would write favorable
letters to the FCC and other regulators, saying that Comcast buying of NBC is a great
and wonderful thing, and that the company would work aggressively in making TV and
cable more ethnically diverse. Records even
show that the NAN received some $155,000 from Comcast, who, in turn, wrote letters
to Washington FCC regulators, endorsing the NBC buyout.
And in January
2011, the FCC approved Comcast’s buying of NBC, and it is argued that, as a sort
of “thank you,” MSNBC gave Sharpton his own news show on the network, despite
cries of protest, at the time, from professional black journalists, that someone more
experienced in the field should have been given the opportunity instead of someone
with no background in journalism.
said in an interview yesterday, not mincing words, “It’s cheaper
to give Al Sharpton money, than it is to do business with real African-American
owned media. What Comcast did is, they give Al Sharpton money so he doesn’t
call them racist. That is the issue here… (He) is nothing more than a black
pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game. He’s not even bright
enough to know he’s on the chess board, and he’s being used by his white masters
at Comcast, specifically David Cohen (executive V.P. of Comcast) and Brian
Roberts (chairman and CEO of Comcast)."
lawsuit against AT &T and Direct TV is essentially for the same reason. AT&T
is looking to buy Direct TV for $67 billion, and Allen is claiming that AT&T
has bought off Sharpton as well, to keep him quiet and approve the deal.
“Why is Al
Sharpton getting more money from AT&T than Ebony Magazine, which has been
around for 70 years?…I find it outstanding that AT&T is the biggest
sponsor of Sharpton’s 60th birthday party. (They) spent more money on Al Sharpton’s
birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media
combined. He should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate
Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a
But it doesn’t
end here. Now Comcast wants to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, and is
currently awaiting approval from the FCC, which, if it does approve of the merger, would make Comcast, literally, the most powerful media corporation in the world. As a result, Allen fears that
black producers and content providers, such as himself, will be totally shut out, with Comcast using Sharpton and other civil rights organizations as cover.
Allen have a point here? Personally, I say he does. But maybe you feel
Although, where are the others in the business willing to back him up? He
can’t be the only one who feels this way, and who has experienced the same frustrations
and road blocks.
And is it really surprising what the suit says about Rev. Al? Who didn’t already know all of this about him? (Aside from still not being able to read a teleprompter).
I’m hoping that he will respond to Allen’s allegations, but I’m not holding my
As I have
said many times before, TV is a cutthroat business, and it’s definitely
getting bloodier all the time.
In a new interview with Reelblack Radio over the weekend, Allen spoke about the lawsuit, building his empire, and more, in a 40-minute conversation which you can listen to below: