Supreme Court Will Hear Comcast Discrimination Lawsuit


The case of National Association Of African American-Owned Media; Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. V. Comcast Corporation, Case No.: 2:15-cv-01239 involves a discrimination lawsuit filed by Entertainment Studios Network, an African American owned media company. Entertainment Studios Network owns several networks it sought to get carried by Comcast and Charter cable system. Comcast and Charter decided not to carry these networks and Entertainment Studios Network sued both Comcast and Charter for racial discrimination.

Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, has said, “The question is whether it is enough, as the lower court held here, for a plaintiff to show that race was a significant factor in the defendant’s allegedly discriminatory conduct, or whether, as the challengers are arguing, race must be the sole reason why the challenged conduct was undertaken.” Vladeck added, “how the justices answer that question could have enormous ramifications for similar race discrimination claims going forward.”

The Complex Path of a Discrimination Lawsuit

A district court wound up dismissing the initial complaint; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed it, allowing the claim to move forward. Charter and Comcast are asking the Supreme Court to reverse this claim, arguing the decision not to carry the channels was ultimately based on “legitimate business reasons, such as limited bandwidth and other operational considerations.” Having “failed to secure carriage on the merits,” the attorneys for Charter Communications argued that Entertainment Studios “sued and leveled sensational allegations of racial discrimination.”

Comcast issued a statement stating they “believe the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision was incorrectly decided. At this stage, the case is about a technical point of law that was decided in a novel way by the 9th Circuit,” the company added. “We hope the Supreme Court will reverse the 9th Circuit’s unusual interpretation of the law and bring this case to an end.”

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