NFL Contends Blackouts "Fundamental" To Television; Senators Urge FCC To Reform Rule
Five Democratic U.S. senators "filed comments with the FCC Monday urging it to reform the sports blackout rule," according to Frederic Frommer of the AP. Yesterday was the deadline for "public comments on a petition by the Sports Fans Coalition to rescind the rule." The NFL said in its filing yesterday the sports blackout rule supports "contractual provisions that are fundamental to broadcast television and thereby enable universal distribution of high quality content, including NFL football, to all Americans and to our fans -- all at no cost to those fans" (AP, 2/13). BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Eggerton notes the NFL "summarized its points succinctly." It said that the blackout rule is "in the public interest because it supports broadcast TV in general and the broad distribution of games -- what the FCC has called must-have programming -- via free over-the-air TV; that the same result could not be practically achieved through private contact; that Congress in the sports Broadcasting Act said promoting attendance at the game helps the sport and fans, and that repeal of the FCC's blackout rule would not end blackouts." The last point is "arguably a key to the NFL's argument." The league "suggested it was not dropping its contractual blackout policy." If the FCC "dropped its policy, cable and satellite operators would be able to air the games, but not broadcasters" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 2/14).