Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios (ES), which filed a $10-billion discrimination lawsuit against Charter Communications for allegedly not launching "100% African-American-owned" programming networks, said in a statement Thursday that news outlets were off base in reporting that the FCC was close to circulating an approval order for Charter's merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
ES and The National Association of African American-Owned Media, which joined in the suit, said they had been told that investigations into the deal were "very much ongoing."
It also said that the FCC had not yet circulated the item, which multiple sources confirmed, and which also means that the investigation would be ongoing regardless of the eventual outcome, which is still widely believed by those inside and outside the commission to be approval.
They also said that the FCC indicated it could impose conditions -- it will certainly do so if it approves the deal as expected -- too onerous and Charter could walk away, which is theoretically the case with any merger.
An FCC spokesperson was not available for comment on the characterizations, but Charter was.
“Mr. Allen’s history of frivolous claims speaks for itself," said Charter in a statement. "Charter is committed to expanding diversity and inclusion throughout the company as reflected in the MOU we signed with leading national civic organizations representing communities of color and recognized by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their recent letter to the FCC. Our commitments will enhance diversity in corporate governance, including on our board of directors, employment, suppliers, community investment and in the programming we carry. We look forward to obtaining approval for our pending transactions and serving all consumers in the communities we will operate in.”
Allen and his backers have criticized Charter's memorandum of understanding with diversity organizations. In December, Allen settled a lawsuit he'd filed against AT&T on similar grounds as the Charter suit, after AT&T signed a distribution agreement for Allen's networks.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.