If you haven’t heard, Byron Allen is suing Comcast and Time Warner for $20 million dollars.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Allen filed suit in California last Friday on behalf of Entertainment Studios and the National Association of African-American Owned Media alleging racial discrimination.
Why is this important, you ask? Or better yet, who is Byron Allen?
Both of those questions are good ones. Let’s start with the who…
Allen is a somewhat funny comedian, best known by Black America for hosting those entertainment shows in the 90s, which used to come on at odd hours of the day and night on the weekends. That’s how I best remembered him anyway. He is also a television producer. And not just any television producer but the got-damn founder of Entertainment Studios, which is an independent television production and distribution company of syndicated television shows and channels. You might be aware of studio’s most recent venture JusticeCentral.TV, which produces court shows like America’s Court With Judge Ross, Justice With Judge Mablean and We The People With Gloria Allred. It also the production and distribution company behind the syndicated sitcoms, The First Family and Mr. Box Office.
Did I also mention that his net worth is somewhere around $300 million? Is it me or is Allen looking finer and finer with each zero added? Ladies I tried to tell y’all before, it always the nerds…
Now, that we have an idea of who Allen is, let’s talk about why this is important. Allen is not only going after Time-Warner and Comcast on the eve of its history-making merger (if the deal happens, the combined Time Warner and Comcast will become the largest cable company operator in the entire country), but according to the Hollywood Reporter, the suit also names various African-American advocacy groups and activists for allegedly facilitating discrimination. Those groups include the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network and Al Sharpton.
More specifically, the suit alleges that out of the $11 billion in licensing fees to networks that Comcast carries on its platform, only three million went to Black-owned media companies. Also the cable company giant is accused of making large cash “donations” including $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network, for the purpose of gaining support for the NBCU deal as well as to divert attention away from discrimination the cable company was allegedly engaging in.
As HR reports:
“The plaintiff objects that the only fully black-owned channel picked up by Comcast is the Africa Channel, and that entity is owned by former Comcast/NBCU exec Paula Madison, who “was directly involved in putting together the sham MOUs and obtaining government approval for the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal, thus creating a serious conflict of interest.”
Other black channels are said to be “window dressing,” with black celebrities as “fronts” when they are “white-owned businesses” that are run by friends or family of Comcast executives”
As the suit alleges Sharpton’s MSNBC show, which airs on the stations coveted prime 6 p.m time slot, was also part of the coverup.
As HR reports:
“Despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton’s show generates, Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity. “We’re not trying to create any more Bob Johnsons,” referring to the founder of Black Entertainment Television.”
And it gets worse for Sharpton specifically. Allen recently gave an interview to the Daily Caller, where he spilled more hot tea on Sharpton alleged corporate shilling:
“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”
“Al Sharpton is nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game,” Allen continued. “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 [executive vice president] David Cohen and [chairman and CEO] Brian Roberts.”
Them sound like fighting words. Honestly, it is hard to see how Al Sharpton can redeem himself after this latest scandal, but the truth is, he always does. However if what is alleged turns out to be true, we now have concrete proof that Sharpton, as well as other civil rights institutions, are in it for themselves. Now I’m not saying that Sharpton and these institutions have not served a valiant purpose, but allegedly accepting payoffs to be quiet on discrimination – and basically keep the community in check – is the worse kind of gatekeeping. And those looking to have their causes particularly around racial discrimination legitimized in the mainstream, might not want to associate themselves with any of these characters.
And before folks start pumping the Black fist for Allen, he also makes some rather harsh statements about Barack Obama as well:
““I think that Obama uses him to control the Negroes,” Allen said of Sharpton.
“DC has been taking payoffs. Comcast owns every politician in that town including President Obama,” Allen said, noting Comcast executives’ fundraising for the president.“Obama has been bought and paid for.”
“President Obama, you control a couple billion dollars in advertising. What have you done to make sure African-American owned media is participating in government advertising? We got more respect from President Clinton.”
“Shame on you, President Obama,” Allen said.“I think African-Americans would have done much better with a white president. They are murdering us on the street and murdering us in the boardrooms.”
I don’t have a problem with critique the Administration. And truthfully, I wish more of it would happen. However everything is political. And Allen has been pretty quiet about his feelings of the POTUS, as well as Obama’s lack of concern for the interest of the Black community, for most of his two-terms, only to get all gully when it serves his own interest. So while I’m not a fan of Sharpton’s alleged corporate shilling and feel that Allen raises some great points, I’m not so certain I’m willing to jump on the Allen bandwagon just yet.