Calling it an historic ruling, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. (ESN) announced today that Federal District Court Judge George H. Wu denied Charter Communications’ Motion to Dismiss ESN’s $10 billion lawsuit against Charter for racial discrimination in contracting, in violation of Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981.
“Today was a huge victory for my client,” said attorney Skip Miller, Partner, Miller Barondess, LLP in Los Angeles and Plaintiff’s lead counsel. “The $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuit will move forward against Charter Communications. The judge addressed the complexities of this case and discovery will commence immediately. We have direct and circumstantial evidence that we put forth in our lawsuit. We have evidence of racial bias harbored by top level Charter executives with decision-making authority, and allege, in detail, the discriminatory treatment ESN suffered at the hands of these executives. These well-pleaded allegations, combined with Charter’s internal racial issues, lack of contracting and doing business with 100% African American-owned media, were sufficient to defeat Charter’s Motion to Dismiss and we look forward to trial by jury. Separately, we fully expect the dismissal of ESN’s $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast to be overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where we are under appeal.”
“Everybody talks about diversity, and everybody complains about the lack of diversity and economic inclusion,” said Byron Allen, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Entertainment Studios. “Today, we made history by doing something about it. This lawsuit was filed to provide distribution and real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media. The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100% African American-owned media receives ZERO. This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100% African American-owned media.”
“Charter will now have to open up ALL their contracts which will show the world that they do not do business with 100% African American-owned media out of the billions of dollars they spend on programming every year,” said Mark DeVitre, President, National Association African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM). “Simply put, the contracts and the numbers do not lie, and they will show racial discrimination, lack of economic inclusion for African American-owned media, and blatant racism. In my opinion, Charter’s CEO, Tom Rutledge, has done his stockholders a huge disservice by not sitting down with us, but instead pretending Reverend Al Sharpton speaks for all African Americans which in itself is racist.”
This news comes after, less than a year ago, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios seemingly scored a victory in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against AT&T in 2014, who settled, leading to AT&T subsidiary DirecTV to pick up 7 ESN channels. At the time of the settlement, of the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles, reps for Entertainment Studios and AT&T would only say: “The matter has been resolved.” The AT&T deal greatly enhances the distribution base and value of the ESN channels, which are wholly owned by Allen. DirecTV and U-verse together reach nearly 26 million domestic subscribers, with U-verse accounting for about 6 million subscribers. Allen has a similar racial discrimination lawsuit pending against Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In the complaint against AT&T, the National Association of African-American Owned Media, an affiliate of Century City-based Entertainment Studios, claimed racial discrimination over the fact that Entertainment Studio had no luck securing a carriage deal with DirecTV after years of trying to engage executives in negotiations.
Click here to read the court’s opinion on the Charter Communications decision, which was issued as a tentative ruling at the beginning of the hearing, and was made final at the end of the hearing.