The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has given Byron Allen and his Entertainment Studios the go-ahead to pursue discrimination lawsuits against Comcast and Charter Communications.
The lawsuits, which were filed in 2015 and 2016 for violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866, requests $20bn in damages from Comcast and $10bn from Charter.
Entertainment Studios claims that it had requested that Comcast and Charter carry its networks, such as Pets.TV, Comedy.TV and Recipe.TV, and was rejected on the basis of race.
The Court has upheld Entertainment Studios claims against the companies and ruled that both cases could proceed to trial courts that would ultimately determine whether either party is guilty of racial discrimination.
It overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss Allen’s claim against Comcast and Charter at an earlier period.
Allen’s Entertainment Studios filed a similar suit against AT&T, which was settled in 2015 when DirecTV picked up seven channels from the studio.
“These two decisions against Comcast and Charter are very significant, unprecedented, and historic,” said Byron Allen, founder, chairman andCEO of Entertainment Studios. “The lack of true economic inclusion for African Americans will end with me, and these rulings show that I am unwavering in my commitment to achieving this long overdue goal.”
Comcast and Charter have been critical of the court’s decision.
“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” Comcast said in a statement.
Charter said: “This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors. We are disappointed with today’s decision and will vigorously defend against these claims.”
Entertainment Studios owns eight channels, including The Weather Channel, which was acquired in March for US$300m.