Comcast dodges $20B bullet with dismissal of Byron Allen discrimination suit

For now, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) can breathe a sigh of relief as a court has dismissed Byron Allen's $20 billion discrimination suit against the MSO. But Allen and the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) have one more shot at making the litigation stick.

According to Deadline, U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. declared the plaintiffs have not sufficiently pled the facts in the case and therefore are not warranted a claim for relief. Hatter dismissed the case, giving the plaintiffs one more chance to amend the complaint. But if the last revised complaint also has "pleading deficiencies," then the case will be dismissed with prejudice.

Allen still sounded confident that the case could be won.

"This was a dismissal with leave to amend, not a dismissal with prejudice, which means that the case is very much alive," said Allen in a statement provided to Deadline. "This is a common occurrence in the court system. We will be filing our amended complaint shortly. If Judge Hatter gets this wrong because he will not allow any hearings to truly understand the complexity of this complaint, we will vigorously pursue this case with an appeal all the way to the 9th Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary."

The complaint, filed more than a year ago, alleged that Comcast and TWC (NYSE: TWC) "collectively spend approximately $25 billion" annually to license and market programming networks, but less than $3 million of that money goes to networks that are "100 percent African-American-owned." The complaint also said that Comcast kept Al Sharpton's show on MSNBC, despite low ratings, in an attempt to garner support for its proposed merger with TWC.

Hatter last year dismissed the case but revived it in August 2015, removing TWC as a defendant after Comcast's attempted acquisition of the MSO fell through. Sharpton was dropped from the case in September 2015, according to Deadline.

The new developments in Allen's case against Comcast come after the media mogul in March filed a petition with the FCC alleging Comcast has not met the diversity conditions laid out as part of its acquisition of NBCUniversal.

Specifically, Allen pointed toward African-American-targeted networks Aspire and Revolt, both launched after within two years after closure of the NBCU merger, as not adequately meeting the merger conditions.

"Rather than negotiate in good faith with an established program provider that is 100 percent owned by an African-American, Comcast has chosen to deal with organizations that are nothing more than front organizations, fronts to each of which one prominent African American has lent his name while non-African-Americans call the shots and reap the benefits," Allen said in his petition.

For more:
- see this Deadline story
- read this court order

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