There are a bunch of MSNBC shows hitting the chopping block this month as the network shuffles around it’s talent, looking for some way – any way – to get anyone to watch it, short of simply bribing them. They’ve already cancelled Ronan Farrow’s afternoon show for it’s “very low ratings,” which is putting it nicely – the show had a whopping 11,000 viewers in the target demographic before it landed on the chopping block, less even than Al Jazeera America at the same time, and I guarantee most people have no idea their cable package even includes Al Jazeera. Next in line for a potential cancellation: Al Sharpton.
This is not only bad news for Al, but it may actually be bringing an end to a cozy relationship between the “justice activist” and Comcast/NBCU, if a lawsuit filed today is to be believed. In a legal complaint filed in California this morning, the National Association of African-American Owned Media accuses Comcast/NBCU, which is about to merge with Time Warner Cable, of having a sham diversity policy that hides discrimination against African-American owned networks, and that Comcast/NBCU courted and paid Al Sharpton and his National Action Network to talk up and support NBC’s commitment to diversity to direct attention away from Comcast’s failings, making them complicit in Comcast’s alleged discrimination.
According to the lawsuit, Comcast and TWC “collectively spend approximately $25 billion annually for the licensing of pay-television channels and advertising of their products and services, yet 100% African American–owned media receives less than $3 million per year.”
At the time of Comcast’s 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast entered into memoranda of understanding with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, but the lawsuit says the voluntary diversity agreements are “a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”…
Other black channels are said to be “window dressing,” with black celebrities as “fronts” when they are “white-owned businesses” that are run by friends or family of Comcast executives.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Comcast made large cash “donations” to obtain support for its acquisition. The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it’s charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination. As for Sharpton’s MSNBC gig, the complaint says, “Despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton’s show generates, Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity.
Sharpton, for his part, says his entire operation doesn’t have anywhere near a $4 million budget, though the lawsuit does specify that Sharpton’s $750,000 contract is part of the “payoff” (and yes, Sharpton makes $750,000, in case you were still wondering whether all those years of education you paid for have been a waste). Sharpton also alleges that his show has high numbers and that it’s the most-watched show on MSNBC at the 6pm hour, which makes sense since it’s the only show on MSNBC in the 6pm hour. Overall, of course, Sharpton comes in last among network personalities for his time slot, with a measely audience of 59,000 in-demo viewers, and 416,000 viewers overall (compared with Fox News, which saw more than 2 million viewers tune in during that time).
It will probably be pretty tough to prove these allegations, though Al Sharpton’s continued presence in the MSNBC prime-time line up does grant the alleging organization a little bit of credibility, if only because no one in their right mind and not under duress would have hired Al Sharpton to host a prime time news program. But, of course, you also have to assume that whoever puts the lineup together at MSNBC is in their right mind, and that…well, that’s definitely debatable.