Report: U.S. FCC proposes ending TV sports blackout rules

Wednesday December 18th, 2013

FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn is on board with eliminating the TV sports blackout rule. (Bloomberg/Getty Images) FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn is on board with eliminating the TV sports blackout rule. (Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Bloomberg TV reports that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has proposed ending the blackout rule for televised games. The long-standing rule allows "sports blackouts," when a scheduled televised event is not aired in a particular media market.

The blackouts typically prevent the airing of games on local broadcast networks when stadiums do not sell out.

The full statement included the following explanation for the proposal to revoke the rule:

The sports industry has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, however, and the Petitioners argue that the economic rationale underlying the sports blackout rules may no longer be valid. Below we seek comment on whether we have authority to repeal the sports blackout rules. Next, we examine whether the economic considerations that led to adoption of the sports blackout rules continue to justify our intervention in this area. Finally, we propose to eliminate the sports blackout rules and seek comment on the potential benefits and harms of that proposed action on interested parties, including sports leagues, broadcasters, and consumers.

This is not the first time the FCC has proposed ending the blackout rule -- the same proposal was made Nov. 1. In a statement released then, acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said that a tough economy and high ticket prices make it difficult for fans to attend games:

"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 [Nov. 1] statement.
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