FCC Chief Proposes Ending NFL Game Broadcast Blackouts

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Houston Texans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The outgoing boss of the FCC has proposed putting an end to the televised football game blackouts that have bedeviled NFL fans for decades.

On Friday, Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said that she was proposing to eliminate the Commission's blackout rules, which prohibit cable or satellite providers from carrying home games that have been blacked out on local broadcasts. The rule primarily impacts the NFL, which blacks out games on local broadcast television if the stadium has not sold out. The policy was put in place to encourage attendance, but has led to widespread complaints from small-market and under-performing teams unable to fill their stadiums.

"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. She went on to note that repealing the rules would not prevent broadcasters and sports leagues from privately negotiating to black out certain sporting events.

That means that the practical impact for sports fans is unclear.

"As Clyburn pointed out in her statement, the NFL can still require blackouts as part of their contracts with programmers, and probably will," writes Broadcasting & Cable, which tracks TV industry news. "Essentially, it gets the FCC out of the picture."

The 40-year-old rules have come under sporadic attack by members of Congress and by interest groups like the Sports Fan Coalition, which has lobbied the FCC to put an end to the rules. In response to criticism, the NFL tweaked its rules last year to allow teams to set their attendance threshold as low as 85 percent of capacity to avoid a blackout. Despite this, fans in small markets like Tampa Bay and Buffalo saw some of their games blacked out on local TV.

"If the record in this proceeding shows that the rules are no longer justified, the Commission's involvement in this area should end," concludes Clyburn.

Though she won't be the head of the FCC, Clyburn will still be around to lobby for the end of blackouts: She is slated to retain her position as an FCC commissioner until 2017. But Tom Wheeler was confirmed this week by the Senate as the new chairman of the FCC.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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21 Comments

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bigsixty31

FCC ONCE AGAIN GETTING INVOLVED WHERE THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS IN DOING SO....

November 04 2013 at 5:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bagthepi

And then baseball should follow suit. Really irks me that 90% of baseball is cable only. And even if you subscribe to their online network, the local games are blacked out even if sold out. How wrong is that?

November 03 2013 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michaelnel4449

IT'S ABOUT TIME..........

November 03 2013 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savannahswithgod

What's the need FCC? Soon that stuff is bound to go all pay channel. Then when it comes back it will find out most can live without it.

November 03 2013 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
allyndp

Why doesn't the FCC do something about the annoyinly loud noise of the the background music in TV shows and commercials? it's deafening our children and ourselves.

November 03 2013 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to allyndp's comment
supersonic

Not to mention the garbage hollywood spews into your living room nightly. Turn it off, read a book or something.

November 03 2013 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

I noticed all the merchandise being sold is imported. They want us to support their teams with American Dollars and yet they do not care where there good are being made. Will not accept the reason they have NO control over it. I will not buy their stuff nor will I attend any games anymore. They are getting out of hand with their prices. Greed has set in.

November 03 2013 at 5:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
uacrack

i agree with dropping the black out rule being dropped, but also if you are not selling out why not LOWER your ticket prices and food/drink/parking prices to the point where you do sell out

November 02 2013 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ucustatme2

How to keep a small market team down? Don't allow the populace to get behind them.

November 02 2013 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
palmejn

This action is long overdue. We live three hours from the nearest NFL Stadium and it's in another state. While there are many great athletes in the NFL, the current trend to salary blackmail has resulted in an atmosphere of greed beyond belief. Many athletes do great things for the commuinities in which they live and work, Too often those mega-bucks are wasted on "stuff" instead of supporting their many children and ensuring that kids from "the wrong side of the tracks" have the opportunity to get an education - including college - and become contributing members of society.

November 02 2013 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Etheral

With the prices that professional football and other professional sporting events charges on tickets prices and the of concessions items " the blackout band" needs to be lifted. After all the billions made by the NFL comes from the after market items, such as hats, jerseys, socks and even underwear, not televised games.

November 02 2013 at 3:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply