Comcast to FCC: Reject Byron Allen Petition

Comcast has told the FCC to reject a petition by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios and the National Association of African-American Owned Media asking the agency to investigate what the petitioners called Comcast's "failed" promise, codified in a condition of the merger with NBCUniversal, to add majority-controlled African American-owned media networks.

Instead, Comcast told the commission in a filing Tuesday, the petition’s assertions are false, unsupported and ridiculous, and just the latest gambit in Entertainment Studio's strategy to use litigation as a way to obtain the business goal of securing carriage for Entertainment Studios networks that "the market has not supported."

Comcast pointed out that it was not the first ("or second or third") time a programming distributor has been accused of racist practices, calling Entertainment Studios and NAAAOM "serial litigants," pointing to suits against AT&T, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Charter claiming discrimination in each case.

"Faced with overwhelming and undeniable evidence that Comcast is a firm supporter not only of networks that are owned by African Americans, but also of African-American focused programming, petitioners have resorted to baseless allegations against Comcast’s African American business partners, whom they offensively label as 'token[s]' and 'window dressing,'" Comcast told the FCC.

Comcast said that not only has it met the NBCU deal condition on new, independent networks, it has met the first benchmark in its commitment on diverse programming.

Comcast also said that not only does the FCC not need to investigate its programming-related diversity initiatives and "the racial makeup of its minority business partners," but said that may be beyond the FCC's enforcement authority "in this context."

"[T]he courts are the only proper venue for litigating Ppetitioners’ claims of intentional race discrimination — not this commission," Comcast said.

John Eggerton

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.