Even as an undercover investigation revealed some fierce criticism by some of the people he ostensibly used his celebrity status to defend, Al Sharpton sustained another blow to his already controversial reputation.
Reports indicate the National Association of African-American Owned Media, an advocacy group interested in promoting black ownership of media outlets, recently filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable just as the two companies are prepared to combine to create an industry-leading corporation. In its court documents, the group alleges both cable providers conspired to relegate networks owned by blacks.
The companies “collectively spend approximately $25 billion annually for the licensing of pay-television channels and advertising of their products and services,” the suit states, “yet 100% African American-owned media receives less than $3 million per year.”
Among the accusations contained in the lawsuit is a direct indictment against MSNBC host Sharpton. The longtime civil rights activist allegedly accepted a nearly $4 million donation from Comcast through his National Action Network, which the suit suggests was paid to secure his support for deals including the company’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.
As purported evidence of the arrangement, the suit cites Sharpton’s ratings.
“Despite the notoriously low rating that Sharpton’s show generates,” the plaintiffs wrote, “Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity.”
For their part, both Sharpton and Comcast have responded to the development by insisting they are committed to fostering diversity in the media industry.
“We currently carry more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences,” a Comcast spokesperson stated, “including multiple networks owned or controlled by minorities.”
The source called the allegations included in the lawsuit “scurrilous” and Sharpton’s NAN referred to the claim as “frivolous.”
BCN editor’s note: This article first appeared at Western Journalism.