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TV mogul Byron Allen, cable giant Charter settle long-running race discrimination lawsuit

Byron Allen sits on a couch.
Media mogul Byron Allen, pictured in 2019 in his L.A. offices, has ended his lawsuit against Charter Communications.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

TV mogul Byron Allen has ended his long-running battle over alleged race discrimination with the nation’s second-largest cable TV provider, Charter Communications.

The Los Angeles entrepreneur sued Charter, which operates Spectrum TV and Internet service, and Comcast Corp., alleging that racism was the reason the two massive cable companies had refused to distribute his small TV channels. Allen, who is Black, filed the $20-billion lawsuit in 2015, and the case ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Supreme Court struck down many of Allen’s arguments last year. Allen’s case was legally significant because it relied on the historic Civil Rights Act of 1866. Enacted a year after the Civil War ended, the law mandated that Black citizens “shall have the same right ... to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

In a 9-0 decision in March 2020, the high court said it was not enough for a civil rights plaintiff to assert that his race was one of several factors that motivated a company to refuse to do business with him. Instead, the person must show race was the crucial and deciding factor.

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Comcast settled its portion of the lawsuit with Allen last summer, agreeing to carry three of his TV channels on Comcast’s Xfinity system.

Both Philadelphia-based Comcast and Charter, which is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., had denied that they discriminated against Allen because of his race.

Terms of the Charter settlement were not disclosed. Late Wednesday, Allen’s company and Charter released a brief joint statement: “Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks has resolved and withdrawn the lawsuit against Charter Communications.”

Both sides declined to comment further. A spokesman for Allen declined an interview request.

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While one of the industry’s most successful executives, Allen struggled for years in negotiations with Comcast and Charter to win slots for seven of his channels, including Pets.TV, Cars.TV and Comedy.TV. Both cable companies rebuffed him, saying they already carried other similar channels.

Allen has expanded his empire in the last few years. In 2018, he bought the Weather Channel in a $300-million deal. His Allen Media Group owns more than a dozen broadcast TV stations, including in Chico, Calif., and Eugene, Ore. His stations have various network affiliations, including with ABC, NBC and Fox.


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