Last Friday, a U.S. District Court Judge agreed to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Circle City Broadcasting, claiming that DirecTV and Dish discriminated against Circle City because they are a Black-owned business.
Circle City has said they plan to appeal the decision, so this case is far from over, but for now, this is a huge win for DIRECTV and DISH. The owner Dujuan McCoy went on to say he would work to prevent DirecTV and Dish from merging if they tried.
The case revolves around WISH-TV and WNDY-TV that Circle City acquired from Nexstar for nearly $43 million back in 2019, and around this time Nexstar. In the contract these stations had allowed DISH and DIRECTV to end their deals if Nexstar sold the channels. After that happened, Circle City has been unable to reach a deal with DISH and DIRECTV.
DIRECTV offered to carry these channels without paying saying they only paid larger locals. DISH did offer to pay but only at a reduced rate compared to what they paid in the past when Nexstar owned the channels.
“While Circle City did not like how DIRECTV chose to negotiate with it, nothing in the record connects any of these actions to some form of racial animus or intent to discriminate based on race.” Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the United States District Court in the Southern District of Indiana. Judge Pratt had also previously granted summary judgments to both DIRECTV and Dish in separate but similar decisions.
“We are pleased Judge Pratt recognized our non-discriminatory approach to retransmission consent negotiations with Circle City Broadcasting. Our differences have always been economic, and this positive ruling affirms our commitment to negotiate in good faith while constantly striving to keep costs as low as possible for our customers,” DirecTV said in a statement.
In his ruling Judge Pratt pointed out that Melisa Boddie, vice president of programming, handled the negotiations for Dish. The judge pointed out that Boddie is “a Hispanic woman who is married to a Black male, made no ‘racial comment’ during negotiations and was perceived by McCoy as being ‘polite, civil, and courteous.”
“There is no evidence in the record to either support the claim that racial discrimination caused Dish or Boddie to discriminate against Circle City or create a triable issue of fact.”
In the following negotiations with their two other distributors, Comcast and Charter, Circle City agreed to rates lower than Nexstar, according to the decision. Dish had offered nothing for retransmission, though they made a last minute offer that amounted only pennies per subscriber, ultimately rejected by Circle City.
“Although we are disappointed in the court’s ruling, I have always known as one of the few Black media entrepreneurs in America that the fight for equality in media is always going to be difficult,” He stated. “We firmly believe that Dish and (DirecTV) are both discriminatory companies in contracting. Separately and individually they discriminate!”