FCC looking to end sports blackout rule

By Kyle Johnson,

The Federal Communications Commission is looking to finally end the sports blackout rule that has stood for 40 years.

The blackout rule prevents local stations from broadcasting a sports game if it does not sell out, which leaves local fans of less popular - or struggling - teams to potentially be unable to watch games from their home, according to Politico.

The FCC sees the rule as having become obsolete, but despite looking to end the blackouts, it has not yet ruled one way or the other. The agency wrote, "Changes in the sports industry in the last four decades have called into question whether the sports blackout rules remain necessary to ensure the overall availability of sports programming to the general public."

However, just because the FCC would rule to eliminate blackouts, it doesn't necessarily mean it will all work in the favor of sports fans, Variety reports. The various sports leagues would still be able to negotiate their own form of the blackout rule with broadcasters.

Broadcasters are worried that if the FCC would end the blackout rule it would increase the chance that sports could move to pay-TV platforms and one the spokesman noted that actual blackouts these days are "exceedingly rare."

Spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters Dennis Wharton said, "We're concerned that the FCC proposal may hasten the migration of sports to pay-TV platforms, and will disadvantage the growing number of people who rely on free, over-the-air television as their primary source for sports."

Politico notes that the rules have been changed throughout the years and in 1973, Congress ruled that blackouts could only happen if a venue didn't sell out 72 hours beforehand. In the NFL, blackouts only happen if a stadium happens to sell less than 85 percent of tickets.


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