The Odd Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Comcast

Byron Allen — remember him? — says Comcast hired Al Sharpton to get his support on hot-button issues.

Byron Allen, in happier times. |

Byron Allen, in happier times. |

We’ve honestly not been sure how much attention to give the following item, because it’s just a little odd.

But here goes: Comcast is being sued. By Byron Allen. (Older folks will remember him from the show Real People; younger folks might recognize him from his syndicated celebrity interview show, Kickin’ It With Byron Allen.) For racial discrimination. And the proof of that racial discrimination? Well … Comcast has Al Sharpton on the payroll.


Huffington Post explains:

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Al Sharpton were hit last week with a $20 billion lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against black-owned media companies. While Sharpton and Comcast have spoken out against the lawsuit, co-plaintiff Byron Allen stood by his allegations in a HuffPost Live conversation on Friday.

Allen, who is the chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios, told host Caroline Modarressay-Tehrani that black media companies receive a small share of the annual spending on cable licensing.

“The industry spends about $50 billion a year licensing cable networks in which 100 percent African American-owned media receives less than $3 million per year in revenue from that $50 billion stream of money that is spent to acquire content,” he said.

So what’s the Sharpton problem? Mediaite checks in:

More specifically, Allen contends that Comcast gave Sharpton a primetime TV show on MSNBC — “despite notoriously low ratings” — in exchange for Sharpton’s public support for Comcast on issues of diversity, an area where Allen says the company severely lacks.

Appearing on Reliable Sources Sunday morning, Allen told Brian Stelter that Sharpton does not speak for him or any black people, saying it is racist to even think that Sharpton is the “go-to person” for African-Americans. He also went after Sony for supposedly believing sitting down with Sharpton “negates” its employees’ racist emails uncovered last December about President Barack Obama.

Allen also alleged that AT&T spent more money on Sharpton’s 60th birthday party than they spent onEbony Magazine. Companies like Walmart, Chrysler, and McDonalds do not do business with Allen and other African-Americans, he said, because Sharpton is the “least expensive negro” — a claim that Stelter immediately pounced on.

The Hollywood Reporter says Comcast isn’t sitting still for Allen’s accusations:

Comcast is one of the biggest companies to employ a chief diversity officer, and its practices have been lauded by many including Black Enterprise magazine, which recently named it as one of the 40 best companies for diversity. The lawsuit figures to face many hurdles, from the sufficiency of its allegations to possibly the First Amendment, but for now it presents a larger portrait of a media company that isn’t carrying many fully owned black channels and the dangers of allowing it to grow bigger.

“We do not generally comment on pending litigation, but this complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations,” responds Comcast in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

Sharpton tells us that he “welcomes the opportunity to answer the frivolous allegations” and says he will be bringing counterclaims for defamation.

Check the full lawsuit complaint below.