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Volume 24 No. 214
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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Pushing For Vote To Drop Sports Blackout Rule

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai yesterday said the sports blackout rule is "disserving fans," according to Michael Wooten of Buffalo-based WGRZ-NBC. Pai, during a visit to Buffalo, added, "There's no question in my mind that at this point that the public interest lies on the side of fans in Buffalo and all of these other great NFL cities who are just dying to watch the team but can't do it in person." He wants FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to "call a vote to remove the blackout rule." Pai acknowledged that blackouts "could continue even with the FCC change -- because the NFL could make agreements with all its television partners -- but he said it would send a strong message to the league" (WGRZ.com, 8/12). U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) said, "The 40-year-old sports blackout rule is unfair, antiquated and harmful to fans that have backed their hometown teams through their support and tax dollars." In Buffalo, Jerry Zremski notes the NFL has recently "ratcheted up the pressure on the FCC to preserve the rules, sending lawyers to meet with agency officials to press its case and sending a letter to the agency saying the blackout rules remain 'a key component of the commercial and regulatory system that has enabled the NFL to keep its games available on broadcast television.'" Now that the public comment period on the issue has ended, it is up to Wheeler to "put the blackout rule on the agency’s agenda" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/13). The AP's John Wawrow noted a simple majority "from the five commissioners, which include Wheeler, is required." But Wheeler "has not indicated whether he intends to bring the issue to a vote" (AP, 8/12).