Photo: REUTERS/Lawrence Hurley
Byron Allen’s case is currently being heard in the Supreme Court, the outcome of which could have a significant impact on the civil rights of Black people. Allen recently received a major boost in support, from two unlikely sources — a former NBC Universal executive and the one and only, Diddy. With these two powerful allies on record as supporters, Allen’s assertions of racial discrimination must be viewed even more seriously.
I shared these concerns with Comcast — that the African American networks would be positioned to fail — and Comcast made it clear that it was only committed to launching these networks, and not giving them the necessary distribution and economic support to succeed. Period.Paula Madison, Former NBC Universal Executive
In 2011 Comcast acquired NBC Universal, a move opposed by several Black Democrats, Jesse Jackson and others, at the time. To calm the waters, Comcast entered into a diversity memorandum of understanding agreement (MOU), which was signed by the Urban League, NAACP and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Paula Madison is a former NBC Universal executive, who was present for the MOU negotiations. Those negotiations led to Comcast agreeing to launch channels led by Black entrepreneurs — Diddy (REVOLT) and Magic Johnson (ARISE) were beneficiaries. Still, in a statement released on Friday, Madison made clear that Comcast was only committed to launching these networks, not giving them the necessary supports to succeed. Score one for Byron Allen.
Allen also received support from a fellow business and entertainment mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs. To combat Allen’s claims of racial bias, Comcast had cited their dealings with Combs in particular, as an example of their inclusive business practices. Evidently Diddy didn’t appreciate the namedrop. In a statement, Combs said:
“My name and my network, REVOLT, have been mentioned recently by Comcast in reference to the Comcast/Byron Allen US Supreme Court case as an example of Comcast’s inclusive practices with respect to African American owned cable networks. While it is true that we are in business with Comcast, it is not accurate to use my name or my network as an example of inclusion. I do not want my name to be used inaccurately so I must speak my truth. I also want to make clear that this case is now about much more than cable distribution. It’s about the civil rights of millions of African Americans and other minorities.“
Diddy went on to say,
“On REVOLT, I can only share the truth of my experience. Starting an independent cable network is incredibly difficult and capital intensive. The start we received from Comcast, which was a condition of the United States government approval for Comcast to acquire NBCUniversal, was important, but it is not the level of support needed to build a successful African American owned network. Not even close. Since that launch our relationship has not grown, and REVOLT is still not carried by Comcast in the most affordable packages nor is REVOLT available in all of the markets that would enable us to serve our target audience.
Comcast spends billions of dollars on content networks every year, but just a few million go to African American owned networks like REVOLT. That is unacceptable.Supporting diversity and economic inclusion requires a real partnership. The only way Black owned networks grow and thrive is with meaningful and consistent economic support. Otherwise they are set up to fail. REVOLT has never been in a position to truly compete on a fair playing field because it has not received the economic and distribution support necessary for real economic inclusion. Our relationship with Comcast is the illusion of economic inclusion.“