How Can the Most Reviled Companies in America Maintain their Crown?

Why, by claiming that bigotry is covered by their first amendment corporate rights, of course.

Seriously, these are so toxic that Andrew Cuomo should be offering them multi-billion dollar subsidies.

Yes, I am talking about the big cable companies:

A US appeals court ruling today said that cable companies do not have a First Amendment right to discriminate against minority-run TV channels.

Charter, the second-largest US cable company after Comcast, was sued in January 2016 by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks (ESN), which alleged that Charter violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by refusing to carry TV channels run by the African-American-owned ESN. Allen, a comedian and producer, founded ESN in 1993 and is its CEO; the lawsuit seeks more than $10 billion in damages from Charter.

Charter argued that the case should be dismissed, claiming that the First Amendment bars such claims because cable companies are allowed “editorial discretion.” But Charter’s motion to dismiss the case was denied by the US District Court for the Central District of California, and the District Court’s denial was upheld unanimously today by a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

UPDATE: The appeals court also ruled against Comcast in a similar civil rights case in which ESN seeks more than $20 billion. Comcast had argued in a brief that “the First Amendment prohibits plaintiffs from suing to alter Comcast’s selection of a programming lineup.” But today’s ruling allows ESN’s lawsuit against Comcast to proceed as well.


Charter argued that ESN’s “claim is barred by the First Amendment because laws of general applicability cannot be used ‘to force cable companies to accept channels they do not wish to carry,'” the appeals court panel noted.

But while cable companies do have some First Amendment speech protections, they are not free to discriminate based on race, the panel said. Section 1981 of US law, which guarantees equal rights in making and enforcing contracts, “does not seek to regulate the content of Charter’s conduct, but only the manner in which it reaches its editorial decisions—which is to say, free of discriminatory intent,” the judges wrote.

“Section 1981 prohibits Charter from discriminating against networks on the basis of race,” judges also wrote. “This prohibition has no connection to the viewpoint or content of any channel that Charter chooses or declines to carry.”


The appeals court ruling summarized some of the claims made against Charter:

In addition to recounting Entertainment Studios’ failed negotiations with Charter, Plaintiffs’ amended complaint also included direct evidence of racial bias. In one instance, [Charter VP of programming Allan] Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters, told them “to get off of welfare,” and accused them of looking for a “handout.” Plaintiffs asserted that, after informing Charter of these allegations, it announced that Singer was leaving the company. In another alleged instance, Entertainment Studios’ owner, Allen, attempted to talk with Charter’s CEO, [Tom] Rutledge, at an industry event; Rutledge refused to engage, referring to Allen as “Boy” and telling Allen that he needed to change his behavior. Plaintiffs suggested that these incidents were illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism, noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African-American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men. The amended complaint further alleged that Charter’s recently pronounced commitments to diversity were merely illusory efforts to placate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

You do have to admire the cable companies’ “Purity of Essence” here.

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