The National Association of African-American Owned Media filed a lawsuit in California on Friday against Comcast and Time Warner Cable seeking about $20 billion in damages. The Association is also suing MSNBC host Al Sharpton for allegedly allowing discrimination.
The complaint claims that Comcast and Time Warner Cable "collectively spend approximately $25 billion annually for the licensing of pay-television channels and advertising of their products and services, yet 100% African American–owned media receives less than $3 million per year,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In 2010, when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, Comcast entered into memoranda of understanding with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, but the lawsuit says the voluntary diversity agreements are "a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices."
The National Association of African-American Owned Media claims that the only fully owned black-channel picked up by Comcast is the Africa Channel and all 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.
The Association alleges that Comcast gave $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network so that Sharpton would endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination.
The lawsuit asserts that Comcast allowed Sharpton “to maintain his hosting position [on the Comcast co-owned MSNBC] for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity … despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton’s show generates,’’ as reported by the New York Post.
In response to the lawsuit, Sharpton told the New York Post: "I would welcome it. We could then be deposed on what this gentleman asked us to do to help him get programming, which we frankly considered below our standard and unethical."