The National Association of African American Owned Media filed a $10 billion dollar lawsuit yesterday against AT&T, Inc., AT&T Services, Inc., AT&T Mobility LLC and DirecTV today for violating section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
The National Association of African American Owned Media estimates that AT&T and DirecTV spend approximately $22 billion dollars in cable channel carriage license fees and advertising, and less than $3 million of that money is allotted for 100 percent African-American owned media, according to marketwatch.com.
Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in contracting ensuring that all people will have the same right to make and enforce contracts, stating “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.”
To highlight just how minuscule the amount of money allocated to Black television is, Marketwatch compared the combined personal compensation of CEOs Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Michael D. White of DirectTv in 2013 to the amount that both companies paid 100 percent African-American owned media during that year. They found that Stephenson earned $23 million dollars and White earned $13 million, which combined is at least 10 times more than both companies paid to African-American media that year.
“It is appalling, deeply upsetting and totally unacceptable now and moving forward that economic exclusion of 100 percent African American-owned media continues to be perpetuated by these behemoth media conglomerates and their persistent, rigid refusal to contract with 100 percent African American owned media,” Mark DeVitre, President of NAAAOM told PR Newswire. “If AT&T and DirecTV do not respond to this lawsuit quickly and properly resolve the issues, we will call for the resignation of Randall Stephenson, Chairman and CEO of AT&T, Mark Wright, Vice President Media Services and Sponsorships at AT&T, Aaron Slater, President, Content and Advertising Sales for AT&T, Michael D. White, Chairman, CEO and President of DirecTV and Daniel York, Chief Content Officer, DirecTV. In addition, we will organize nationwide boycotts to disconnect all AT&T and DirecTV services.”
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African American-owned television networks depend on programming distributors like the defendants to both reach their consumers and make advertising revenue.
“This lawsuit presents a unique and important opportunity for our justice system to address and eradicate racial discrimination against 100% African American-owned media companies,” said Skip Miller, lead trial counsel for NAAAOM. “I look forward to presenting our case in court, explaining it to the jury and obtaining an appropriate remedy for the wrongful way AT&T and DirecTV have operated their businesses. One hundred percent African American-owned media companies have been egregiously harmed and we look forward to obtaining justice for them,.”