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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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Black-Owned Media Take on AT&T & DirecTV

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A black-owned media company sued AT&T for $10 billion this week, claiming AT&T shut it out from co-defendant DirecTV, for racial reasons, after buying the satellite company for $67 billion.

The National Association of African-American Owned Media claims in its Dec. 2 federal complaint that it represents "at least one" African American-owned media company.

It does not identify that company, but says it owns seven channels that produce original content, 32 television series, and a library of thousands of hours of programming.

The association claims that AT&T and DirecTV refuse to carry the majority of its programming, except for one channel, for which they pay no carriage fees.

"DirecTV - with four times more pay-TV subscribers than AT&T - spends approximately $12 billion annually for channel carriage, but like AT&T, none of that $12 billion is paid for channel carriage from 100% African American-owned media," the complaint states. "And again, of the additional approximately $2 billion DirecTV spends on advertising annually, 100% African American-owned media receives less than $1.5 million per year.

"For AT&T and DirecTV, it is a one-way street. While these companies take billions from the African American community, they pay 100% African American-owned media very little or nothing."

Association president Mark DeVitre called the exclusion of black-owned media companies "appalling, deeply upsetting and totally unacceptable."

DeVitre said in a statement that if AT&T does not respond to the lawsuit it would call for the resignation of several key executives, including CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson and DirecTV CEO and President Daniel York

"In addition, we will organize nationwide boycotts to disconnect all AT&T and DirecTV services," DeVitre said.

The lawsuit describes AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV as "part of a growing national trend of media consolidation that will further concentrate racial discrimination in contracting against 100 percent African American-owned media and eliminate diverse voices, contrary to the public interest."

The association claims that AT&T knew it has a "black problem" that might not sit well with regulators, but says that "white-owned media" lobbied federal lawmakers to ensure that black-owned media does not receive licensing fees.

"This has been done through, among other things, the use of 'tokens' and 'window dressing' - African American celebrities posing as 'fronts' or 'owners' of channels, which are truly owned by white-owned media, and by way of ineffectual, sham 'diversity agreements' with non-media groups and individuals," the lawsuit states.

AT&T made cash donations to civil rights groups for their tacit approval of the acquisition, the group claims.

"This is yet another tactic to divert attention away from AT&T/DirecTV's self-admitted 'Black problem,'" according to the lawsuit.

The National Association of African-American Owned Media is represented by Louis Miller with Miller Barondess.

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours Wednesday.

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