The NFL has made it impossible for local fans to watch their football team unless that game is sold out. For years this system has penalized cities, such as Tampa Bay and San Diego, for not selling out games. There is also little regard for local fans who want to watch their team at home, but cannot afford a ticket.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing eliminating sports blackout rules, which prohibits distributors from showing live sporting events that are not available on local television. If the FCC is successful, it would be a huge blow to leagues, like the NFL, that punish fans for the lack of ticket sales.
Here is the FCC’s explanation:
"We propose to eliminate the sports blackout rules. With respect to professional football, the sport most affected by the sports blackout rules, it appears from the existing record that television revenues have replaced gate receipts as the most significant source of revenue for NFL clubs in the 40 years since the rules were first adopted. Moreover, the record received thus far indicates no direct link between blackouts and increased attendance at NFL games. The record also suggests that the sports blackout rules have little relevance for sports other than professional football, because the distribution rights for most of the games in these sports are sold by individual teams, rather than the leagues. Finally, it appears that the sports blackout rules are unnecessary because sports leagues can pursue local blackout protection through private contractual negotiations. Thus, it appears that the sports blackout rules have become obsolete. Accordingly, if the record in this proceeding, as updated and supplemented by commenters, confirms that the sports blackout rules are no longer necessary to ensure the overall availability to the public of sports telecasts, we propose to repeal these rules."
This is the not the first time the FCC has addressed sports blackouts.
FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn questioned the relevancy of blackout rules last month.
"Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games," Clyburn said in a statement.
Obviously, nothing is cut and dry when it comes to politics and the legal system. The NFL, and other leagues, will fight to maintain their blackout rule. Even if the FCC is successful, leagues could attempt to find a loophole to continue enforcing blackouts.
However, it will be interesting to see if the FCC can eventually blackout the NFL current rules.
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