Legendary TV talk show host Byron Allen is taking on Al Sharpton, President Obama, and the most powerful media corporations in the world in a battle to spotlight the crisis at the heart of American race relations. It’s a daunting mission. But for some reason he doesn’t sound scared.
Allen told The Daily Caller that top media interests are actively freezing out and in some cases destroying black-owned media companies — and they’re paying Reverend-turned-MSNBC host Al Sharpton to give them racial cover to do it.
As for Washington politicians like Obama? According to Allen, they’re bought out by the very same interests, and they’re playing a part.
Allen, 53, is the chairman and CEO of the production company Entertainment Studios, which joined with the National Association of African-American Owned Media to file a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit this week against Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the Urban League, and former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. Allen and his fellow plaintiff also filed a $10 billion suit against AT&T and DirectTV.
“It’s cheaper to give Al Sharpton money than it is to do business with real African-American owned media,” Allen told TheDC. “What Comcast does is they give Al Sharpton money so he doesn’t call them racist. That is the issue here.”
It’s an issue that Allen, the cool longtime host of shows like “Real People” and “Entertainers,” talks about with off-the-air passion.
Comcast’s more than $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable is waiting on approval at the FCC, with a decision expected soon. If approved, the merger would make Comcast the most powerful media corporation in the world. But as Allen, who owns seven upstart cable networks, points out: Comcast pays out $11 billion in licensing fees to networks that it carries on its platform. How much of that money goes to 100 percent African-American owned media companies? $3 million. A fraction of one percent.
Sharpton’s curious takeover of the 6 pm timeslot on Comcast-owned MSNBC in late 2010 was predicated on the Reverend signing off on Comcast’s last merger: its historic acquisition of NBCUniversal, which the FCC and Department of Justice approved in January 2011 after a tough regulatory fight from California Rep. Maxine Waters on racial discrimination grounds. Comcast lavished donations upon Sharpton’s National Action Network and other civil rights groups to get them to sign off on the deal, according to Allen’s suit.
“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”
“Al Sharpton is nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game,” Allen continued. “He’s not even bright enough to know he’s on the chess board and he’s being used by his white masters at Comcast, specifically [executive vice president] David Cohen and [chairman and CEO] Brian Roberts.”
AT&T, which is looking to acquire DirectTV for $67 billion including assumption of debt, also pays off Sharpton for racial cover, Allen said.
“I find it outstanding that AT&T is the biggest sponsor of Sharpton’s 60th birthday party,” Allen said. “AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton’s birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media combined. [Sharpton] should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a sick day.”
“Reverend Jesse Jackson, you were on the balcony when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Why are you taking money from AT&T? Why is Al Sharpton getting more money from AT&T than Ebony Magazine, which has been around for 70 years?”
“[Corporations] trick people like, ‘I got the diversity award.’ Well, diversity is defined as women and white women.”
“My wife happens to be white and I ask her who is the white guy who speaks for all white people? You can’t even think that. That idea is racist. That’s wrong. So why do I have some black guy who speaks for me? Why is he cutting deals that somehow I don’t benefit from but somehow he’s on television every night?”
Sharpton’s power, including his informal adviser role at the White House, is just part of the game.
“I think that Obama uses him to control the Negroes,” Allen said of Sharpton.
“DC has been taking payoffs. Comcast owns every politician in that town including President Obama,” Allen said, noting Comcast executives’ fundraising for the president. “Obama has been bought and paid for.”
“President Obama, you control a couple billion dollars in advertising. What have you done to make sure African-American owned media is participating in government advertising? We got more respect from President Clinton.”
“Shame on you, President Obama,” Allen said. “I think African-Americans would have done much better with a white president. They are murdering us on the street and murdering us in the boardrooms.”
But maybe, Byron Allen just might be able to tell enough truth to change things.
“No one’s ever called them out and said it’s time to be accountable,” Allen said of the defendants in the case, stressing the need to fight for black ownership of media, so that black people can control their own image in the world.
“If we don’t have an economic divide, you don’t have the race issues you see today.”
Sharpton, for his part, told The Hollywood Reporter that he “welcomes the opportunity to answer the frivolous allegations.”
“We do not generally comment on pending litigation, but this complaint represents nothing more than a string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations,” said Comcast.