Entertainment Studios Pushes Charter/TWC Diversity Condition

Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios Networks continues to push for Charter/Time Warner Cable shelf space for 100% African American-owned media (AAOM) networks even as a deal vote looms.

In an ex parte filing to the FCC late Wednesday (April 27), David Goodfriend, who is representing Allen and the National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), said he had met with David Grossman, chief of staff to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, on April 26 to talk about the apparent lack of specific diversity-related conditions in FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to approve the deal with conditions.

Allen and NAAAOM filed suit against Charter earlier this year over the issue of 100% African American-owned networks.

The Chairman has circulated, and voted, his proposed conditional deal approval, but the other commissioners had not voted it at press time.

That proposal has not been made public, but Wheeler has talked about a number of conditions--and DOJ's settlement conditions are public--and a channel set-aside was not among them.

Justice did apply conditions preventing most favored nation (MFN) and Alternative Distribution Means (ADMs) provisions, provisions that have been talked about as obstacles to independent programmers in the FCC's program distribution access notice of inquiry motorwomaned by Clyburn. But Goodfriend told Grossman that while the MNFs and ADMs help independents already carried by cable operators, it does not help with the 100% AAOM issue.

Goodfriend also related a meeting between the Stop Mega Cable coalition and FCC officials where Goodfriend argued that memoranda of understandings like the one struck in January between charter and a dozen diversity groups, proved ineffective and said the FCC had a duty to include "prescriptive" conditions remedying the harms of the transaction to independent programmers. He said the officials signaled that he was wrong even to suggest the commission would OK the merger without addressing minority independent programmers' concerns.

Under the MOU New Charter will include adding one African American, one Asian American/Pacific Islander and one Latino American to its board within two years of the transactions close. Charter will also name a chief diversity officer and will expand and "build on" its efforts in corporate governance, employment and workforce recruitment, procurement, programming, and philanthropy and community investment in organizations serving "communities of color."

Goodfriend says the other commissioners should not approve the deal without a specific set-aside condition, preferably 10% of its channel capacity, or 50 services.

Entertainment Studios Networks and NAAAOM have also taken aim at Comcast over carriage issues, including taking it to court as well http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/currency/naaaom-sues-comcast-sharp....

In December, Allen settled a lawsuit he'd filed against AT&T, which was merging with DirecTV on similar grounds as the Charter suit after AT&T signed a distribution agreement for Allen's networks.

Separately, Entertainment Studios and NAAAOMhave written the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) asking them to stay its approval of the deal saying that BPU has "facilitated racial discrimination" in contracting by approving it.

Charter has said the claim is frivolous.

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.