Showing posts with label Al Sharpton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Al Sharpton. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Federal Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Al Sharpton and Comcast

The Reverend Al Sharpton, whatever his other gifts may be, is not a particularly adept television host. His cadence grates. To this Midwesterner he usually sounds as if he's about to punch someone in the mouth. Sharpton mispronounces words and misses cues to open or close segments. He yells all the time. Sharpton's only two emotions are surprise or outrage. He seems to be in a perennial search for the teleprompter. We posted about all this before but Sharpton's shortcomings are obvious to anyone that watches his show for longer than five minutes. For these reasons and many others, Sharpton's ratings on MSNBC have mostly been bad. I can't blame him too much for this. If someone offered to pay me many multiples of my current salary to do something for which I was poorly qualified I might well take the money and cry all the way to the bank. Sharpton has to this point survived the latest reshuffling of talent at MSNBC which saw Joy Reid and Ronan Farrow lose their even less popular shows. This ability to survive purges and even the ability to get hired in the first place had some people shaking their heads and muttering about conspiracy theories. Others laughed at the sheer audacity and tenacity of Sharpton. It takes a lot to survive as a public figure in this world and Sharpton has it. Although his television show is an ongoing dumpster fire I appreciate that Sharpton brings attention to some situations that would otherwise go unnoticed. However someone just recently revealed his belief that Sharpton's hiring and survival at MSNBC was more about corporate payoffs and hiring a spook to sit by the door than it was about Sharpton's hosting talents. So this man filed a $20 billion dollar federal lawsuit.

You may, if you are a certain age, remember Byron Allen as a comedian and co-host of the show Real People. That was a very long time ago indeed but unlike some Hollywood "wasn't that the guy from so-n-so? " fading talent, the Detroit born Allen successfully made the switch into management and ownership. He owns Entertainment Studios, a television distribution and production company which among other things created and Allen and an organization named the National Association of African American Owned Media are suing Comcast, Sharpton's National Action Network, the NAACP, The Urban League, Time Warner and Al Sharpton as an individual, among other entities. The crux of the lawsuit is that Comcast/Time Warner has refused to do business with Entertainment Studios (and other black companies) because it is 100% Black owned. Apparently Sharpton comes in for attack because according to the complaint he and other civil rights organizations entered into voluntary diversity agreements with Comcast/Time Warner which were designed to give the appearance that Comcast/Time Warner was fair minded, when in fact they were not. In short Reverend Al was allegedly selling indulgences for Comcast/Time Warner's allegedly racist business practices. According to this accusation, Comcast, having been criticized in the past for exclusionary actions, decided it was cheaper to buy off Reverend Al Sharpton and associated fellow travelers than to actually change the practices in dispute.

Of the approximately $10 billion in content fees that Comcast pays to license channels and advertise each year, less than $3 million is paid to 100% African American–owned media. Even the token payments Comcast makes to 100% African American–owned media companies are a charade. Comcast pays minimal amounts to license and distribute the Africa Channel, which is owned and operated by a former Comcast/NBC-Universal executive/insider and one of the architects of the MOUs Comcast uses to perpetuate its racial discrimination in contracting.

In connection with its 2010 bid to acquire NBC-Universal, Comcast was criticized for its refusal to do business with 100% African American–owned media. In response, Comcast entered into what it termed “voluntary diversity agreements,” i.e., memoranda of understanding (“MOUs”), with non-media civil rights groups, including the other Defendants herein: NAACP; National Urban League; Al Sharpton; and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. 

Defendants NAACP, National Urban League, Al Sharpton and National Action Network entered into the MOUs in order to facilitate Comcast’s racist practices and policies in contracting—or, more accurately, refusing to contract—with 100% African American–owned media companies. The MOUs are a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.

To obtain support for the NBC-Universal acquisition and for its continued racist policies and practices, Comcast made large cash “donations” to the non-media groups that signed the MOUs. For example, Comcast has paid Reverend Al Sharpton and Sharpton’s National Action Network over $3.8 million in “donations” and as salary for the on-screen television hosting position on MSNBC that Comcast awarded Sharpton in exchange for his signature on the MOUs, another blatant example of conflict of interest. 

Read the (lengthy) full complaint here

I have no idea if the allegations which Allen and others are making in this complaint are accurate. This may be something utterly frivolous which will be tossed from the court system. I do know however that it's often important not just to look at the people in front of a camera or the individual people at the lower levels of the organization to see if Black people are getting a fair shake. It's just as important to look at the higher ups, at the decision makers. It's important to see who's making the contracting decisions and if black companies are getting a piece of the pie. Are business decisions about hiring, grooming, and contracting made so that everyone has a fair chance to compete? There are some corporations which are happy to hire a few black executives here or there over the years but which consistently avoid business to business relations with black companies. Although Allen has a few zingers listed in the complaint (a white executive saying that they didn't want to create another Bob Johnson) for the most part the allegations (if true) are examples of how  bloodless racism can work in the corporate world. Few people are going to run around screaming racial slurs or putting up signs. Well, few people compared to forty years ago do those sorts of things. It's just that business decisions that are made which always seem to leave the same people holding the dirty end of the stick. Again, this could all be nonsense. Allen's own company has come under serious attack for hostility to unions and low pay to performers and creators. Allen's said that in a previous interview that he sees his company as "the Wal-mart of television". FWIW, Allen has also stated that nobody ever gave him anything. 

Giving a tour of Entertainment Studios’ newly leased 75,000-square-foot production space in Culver City, Allen says he built his empire from scratch, in part because, as a black man, he had to. “Over the 20 years, I’ve seen my white counterparts have access to enormous amounts of capital, and in 20 years nobody’s ever offered me a nickel,” he says. “It made me stronger, it made me work with different disciplines.”

To conclude, again this could be a pure shakedown initiated by Allen using Sharpton's name for publicity. Sharpton certainly thinks so. He said that the lawsuit was frivolous at best. He also claims that his organization did not receive $4 million in donations from Comcast but instead less than $1 million. Well. Detractors and even supporters of various advocacy organizations concerned with issues of race, gender, sexuality, animal rights etc. have stated that when an advocacy group accepts "donations" from the same organizations it is supposed to be monitoring, it can sometimes find itself politically neutered. Did this happen to Sharpton? Hmm. Is Allen just being a whiner? 

What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bill Cosby Rape Allegations and Al Sharpton Tax Issues

It's difficult to keep up with the various rape accusations against Bill Cosby. There are currently over fifteen different women who have made allegations that Bill Cosby either attempted to seduce them or raped them. Unfortunately, for those of us who would like to know the truth, these charges detail events that may or may not have occurred many decades ago. Some accusers (Janice Dickinson) have made past statements which contradict their present ones. Other women claim to have engaged in ongoing intimate relationships with Cosby after the alleged rape. Cosby himself has categorically refused to address the accusations. He has previously reached civil settlements with some of the women. Because of the statute of limitations, unless someone with more current accusations pops up, these claims can't be criminally tried. I don't know if outstanding claims can be heard in civil court but there are lawyers who could address that. Nonetheless there are so many accusers that lack of criminal convictions notwithstanding, Bill Cosby's reputation and future business plans have taken a serious hit. NBC and Netflix cancelled planned projects. Much like with allegations with Herman Cain or Jian Ghomeshi, with this many women coming forward, even a Cosby fan who holds innocent until proven guilty as a moral cornerstone might wonder about some things. It's important to point out that I am agnostic on Cosby's guilt or innocence. Who among us knows either Cosby or his accusers? There is no evidence so far that anyone has provided that would strongly convince me of his guilt or innocence. Too much time has passed. We're not in a court of law.

We could be watching bitter former groupies or mistresses lie about an innocent man. We could be watching some delayed justice catch up with a filthy serial rapist. I simply can't call it. Women can and do lie about being raped. Men can and do get away with rape. People who claim that women never lie about rape or that men are constantly beset with false allegations of rape generally have ideological or personal axes to grind.

I wanted to write about this situation because of the news that TVLand cancelled reruns of The Cosby Show. Because apparently if you watch The Cosby Show you support rape or something. Other people are asking if we should boycott reruns of A Different World. 
I wrote on this before but I am not a huge fan of linking enjoyment of or appreciation for people's artistic accomplishments to who they are morally. If you consistently do that you won't enjoy much art. In her memoir Lena Dunham revealed that as a child and teen she had what many people would consider at best an odd relationship with her younger sister. At worst she was a molester.

As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.

I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.

Now I wouldn't watch Dunham's HBO show Girls if you paid me but if I did watch would that mean I support Dunham's perversities? No it wouldn't. One of the most beautiful rock ballads ever written, Led Zeppelin's "Ten Years Gone" was created in part by a man, Jimmy Page, who was having sex with fourteen year old girls when he was twenty-eight. That was statutory rape even back in the hedonistic seventies. If you listen to this song are you condoning sex with underage girls?  Do you boycott anything Sean Penn is associated with because he once went upside Madonna's head with a baseball bat? Charlie Sheen has beaten and shot women. Mark Wahlberg committed racist hate crimes, beating a Vietnamese man so badly he went blind in one eye. So even if every allegation against Cosby is true, I don't see what that has to do with the Cosby Show. Cliff Huxtable is a fictional character. Obviously I dislike some artists for non-creative reasons. I understand that because of an artist's criminal actions or particularly vile political or racial stances there will be Americans who hate the artist. I get that. What I don't comprehend are people who want to yield to the totalitarian impulse to insist that a disgraced artist have all of his or her art eliminated so that no one can enjoy it. Just because you enjoy someone's creative impulse does not mean that you support rape or murder or any other foul action or belief. Bill Cosby may or may not be a rapist. His Fat Albert cartoons, his comedy albums and his television shows are still worthwhile additions to American culture. Life is complex like that sometimes. If you think that Cosby committed these crimes and thus can't watch his comedy routine or tv shows again, that is fine. But other people can separate art from creator and that is also fine.

The New York Times recently ran some articles disclosing that the Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and of MSNBC has not been paying his federal or state taxes. The article also alleged that Sharpton had been moving monies back and forth between his personal accounts and his business and non-profit accounts. Supposedly this also included paying his daughter's tuition bills with funds that had come from non-profit organizations. The paper alleged that the good Reverend had been ducking out on private bill paying obligations. It's unclear how much information the Times obtained from investigation of publicly available documents and how much the Times obtained from sources within the IRS or elsewhere who wanted to drop a dime on Sharpton. The paper is mum on that since some of the information it has appears to be private. Al Sharpton wasted no time finding the nearest microphone to rebut some, but not all of the charges, and blaming it on unspecified enemies who wanted to disgrace him. There is a long history of prominent black political leaders being targeted in the press and discredited by untrue or partially true allegations. Sharpton's no doubt aware of this history and seeks to place himself within that narrative.

Although I think he's FAR too much of an uncritical water carrier for the Obama Administration and a horrible utterly inarticulate television host, on a few issues I care about Sharpton's heart is in the right place. But if you're going to stand up and be counted you need to make sure your stuff is together. Historically, some social justice or civil rights organizations, particularly black ones, have been one man charismatic operations that didn't give enough priority to the mundane business necessities such as ensuring that taxes and bills were paid along with staff workers. You can't maintain the trust of the people you're supposedly fighting for if you don't keep your business tight. No one with a functioning brain stem will give their hard earned money to someone who is paying himself a hefty salary and otherwise "dealing in dirt and stealing in the name of the Lord". It's understandable that a neophyte may not know all the various local, state and federal rules and regulations or generally accepted accounting standards surrounding non-profits, taxes, licensing, financial statements, and when you can and can not mix personal and business monies. But Sharpton is not a young man. He's been at this for a while. He should know better. Get it right. And young or not, everybody has to pay taxes. Ask Wesley Snipes.

What do you think of these situations?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TV, Politics, and Al Sharpton

Yesterday I was channel surfing and I stop on MSNBC which I haven't watched in a long time and who do I see on my TV screen... Motherfreaking Al Sharpton. Like dude was in an anchor chair and giving me the news.

I was confused. I thought I had been bamboozled. I was waiting for the cameraman the director anyone in the control room with knowledge of the board to switch the shot but it never happened. I mean Al was giving me the news, his opinion, and commentary and I was just so beside myself I couldn't even pick my up my bottom lip.

So what did I do. I took to twitter to see if anybody else was seeing what I was seeing. After a series of tweets no one responded. Then I went twitter stalking people I don't know but find interesting (don't judge me) and found this:

I never thought I'd see the day al sharpton became relevant. but here it is. here it is. I am so humbled by this startling change of events.

I haaaaaatttttte that al sharpton INSISTS on giving me liffffffffeeeeeeee these days.....this ASSHOLE just played "He's Got the Whole World"

This is somebody I find smart and absolutely hilarious telling me via twitter that Al Sharpton is giving her life. For real though. I mean that's how you really really feel about life. Okay so let me give the Rev a shot.

I still wasn't sold and explained why to the other members of Urban Politico via email. They will tell you how they feel in the comments. My position though is that Al Sharpton is being played for ratings. I work in TV so I know a little something about "the book" as it's called. Matter of fact we're in one right now.

Let me break it down; ratings periods are the months of November, February, May and July. The July book is the least important. November sweeps (interchangeable with ratings) is when all the juicy stuff happens on your favorite TV shows following the late September early October premiere. If you kill in November you're going to get more advertisers, be able to charge more for advertisments, and basically make the network, and all involved a lot of money and very happy. November sweeps also ends right around Thanksgiving before people realize family is more important than the tube.

In February TV once again gets good following all the re-runs played during the holidays. This follows a period of stupid, insanely high TV watching known as the Superbowl. TV gets a little boring around spring break but come May it heats back up with the season finales that keep you wanting more. Oprah's 25th season was centered around this cycle. July sweeps are for those summer shows to break ground and decide if networks want to keep them going. Think USA.

So this is where Al Sharpton fits in. He's being tried on by MSNBC and so far people are biting. According to TVNewser on
"Sharpton has hosted the 6pm show for the last two weeks. This past week, the hour was second, to Fox News in A25-54 viewers Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday."
Sharpton's show -- which does not have a name -- coming in second to FOX in the most key of key demographics is no laughing matter. It is a tremendous accomplishment. Therefore I will assume Sharpton will be here to stay at 6 p.m. on MSNBC. His trial run this July will set up the network to really give him a great show by the time November hits and the election campaign process truly begins. Sharpton's presence on the network adds to its diversity as Tamron Hall is the only other Black host and Rachel Maddow brings the nerdy lesbian crowd (that is not meant to be offensive just a statement of fact) keeping true to the network's slogan of Lean Forward.

Sharpton's placement also gets the NAACP off of MSNBC's back after that whole rant of cable networks not giving Black politico's a primetime spot. Additionally, since Sharpton has the inside track to President Obama on Black issues -- specifically unemployment and education in the Black community -- he can actually break news as he sees fit and possibly, just maybe, snag that primetime cable interview with the President that won't have the racist undertones and blatant disrespect as Obama's interview on O'Reilly.

Sharpton's placement for ratings, for the election, for diversifying the network is a win-win for everybody involved right. Wrong. You may not see it but I see it as a position of temporary permanence. If Obama wins in 2012 Sharpton on MSNBC can last another four years. If Obama loses Sharpton may keep his show to maintain the "black opinion" or be deemed null and void now that a White man is back in the White House and America goes back to ignoring its flagrant problem with race. I see more of the latter happening than the former but we'll just have to wait and see now won't we.

But beyond this, Al Sharpton is not a journalist. Like not at all. Like not even a little bit. That's my biggest problem with his placement. I mean as a producer I can make anybody look good and they don't even have to be on camera. You call me The Storyteller but really I'm a puppet master. I pick the stories, I order them in the way I want them to be told, I choose the graphics, the video, the soundbites, and set up the live interviews conducted on air. I do all of that for my anchors in Jacksonville, Florida. Imagine what the producers behind Sharpton do to keep him looking good and insure their job security, a promotion, and maybe even a raise. (Yall know journalism doesn't pay)

But these grievances aside I tuned in to some of Sharpton's show Tuesday evening just to see what it was all about.

First thing I noticed is that his accent is thick and it's not distinctly Brooklyn even though that's where he was born. That's not a bad thing but if you notice most newscasters have a neutral tone so as to appeal to all. But I told myself, "Storyteller stop being critical and just watch the damn news."

So I did. His graphics on the show aren't of the flashy variety found on Hardball With Chris Matthews. He doesn't have a set he has a desk so the powers that be are still trying him out. That aside the content was pretty good. The phrasing was catching i.e. "Cut, Cap and Crack Up."

He delivered facts but when it was time for his live interview with Republican Representative Mo Brooks a Tea Party freshman from Alabama I began to take issue. Not so much with Sharpton but with whoever set up the interview. It seemed they chose the most conservative Representative they could find to make Sharpton appear extremely left on his politics therefore reinforcing the theory of cognitive dissonance to make any extreme conservative side with the extremely conservative politician instead of listening to the facts and forging their own opinion and vice versa for the liberals that can't see right.

Secondly, Representative Brooks was blatantly disrespectful questioning Sharpton's mental state so as to not answer a question on tax cuts. Rude, unruly, and possibly a tinge of another R word that we can get into later.

Following this live interview with Representative Brooks, Sharpton then talked to former Clinton Administration member Robert Reich.

The format of Sharpton's show is just like any other primetime commentary show. There are the topics of the day laid out in the headlines. The interviews that turn into tame arguments and serious discussions compared to the type of physical altercations you see on reality television; Basketball Wives anyone. There's the playing to the core demographic which are liberals and mixing in some colored flavor. (Yes I went there)

The show is good, but that doesn't mean I'm all of a sudden tuning into Al at 6 either. The show is good but as I explained earlier any producer worth their salt, and in New York you are definitely worth your salt, can make a personality look good. And yes it's sad to say that I think Al is only a personality MSNBC is trying out on its network because of the current conditions of our country; here comes that R word.

Racism has always made headlines in this country. So what better way to increase ratings than to play on race and racism. What better person to play this game than the man who's made a career out of fighting racial injustices no matter how minute. I don't want to discredit Al Sharpton's activism and all that he's done to push the dreams of slain civil rights leaders forward, however as the tweets above show, Al Sharpton's relevance and credibility have been on shaky ground. Now with the first Black president getting more hate than a little bit, Black people finding themselves in an all out depression instead of a jobless recovery, and the Tea Party people using Herman Cain and Michael Steele as puppets, what Sharpton has to say is way more important now than it was a decade ago.

I appreciate MSNBC capitalizing off of the times, inciting fury and infusing race into the political discourse. I admire them for thinking outside the box and putting Al Sharpton in the position he's in. But because it's all so calculated he will surely end up on Bill O'Reilly's Pinhead list faster than he can create his own Worst Persons. His appointment is populist instead of substantive, it is reactionary instead of groundbreaking, and I have the strange suspicion that it will be temporary instead of permanent. Because of that I would so much rather see an actual journalist with experience, talent, and the command of facts on any and all issues in Sharpton's seat, than a pawn for Comcast (which owns NBC/Universal and therefore MSNBC) to capitalize off of.

But hey. What do I know. I'm just a local news producer trying to make it big. And trust if Al Sharpton wanted me to produce for him I'd do it in a minute even if I knew I'd be looking for another job in 12 months. This is the TV business. Nothing lasts forever. Just ask Keith Olbermann.

What do you think of Al Sharpton's placement behind the anchor desk on MSNBC?
Do you think his appointment will be temporary or permanent like the 20 years Chris Matthews has been with the network?
If Obama is not re-elected do you think Sharpton will once again fade into obscurity his 15 minutes of fame over once again?