Blumenthal, McCain press FCC on sports blackout rule

Washington – Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to finalize regulations that would lift a ban on cable companies that prohibit them from running sporting events that are subject to local broadcast blackouts.

Saying the blackout rules imposed in 1975 are “obsolete,” the FCC in January issued a proposed rule that would lift the prohibition on cable companies.

“Elimination of the sports blackout rules alone likely would not end sports blackouts, but it would leave sports carriage issues to private solutions negotiated by the interested parties in light of current market conditions and eliminate unnecessary regulation,” the agency said in its 48-page proposed rule.

The FCC’s move would most notably affect the NFL, which requires broadcasters to black out games if the local team does not sell out the stadium.

On Wednesday, Blumenthal and McCain wrote the FCC, saying a 60-day public comment period ended on March 24 and a final rule should be issued.

Now that the comment deadline has long passed, we urge the Commission to move forward expeditiously on eliminating the sports blackout rule (SBR),” Blumenthal and McCain wrote. “We believe that the rule unfairly harms consumers by insulating the NFL from market realities and punishing fans in cities with large stadiums and declining populations. We applaud the FCC’s decision to propose elimination of this outdated rule that is no longer supported by facts or logic, and blocks fans from enjoying their favorite teams.”

The senators asked the FCC to bring a final order to a vote within the next 60 days – plenty of time before football season.

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