FCC Considering Removing 38-Year-Old Blackout Rule

In a move that is certain to tick people off, the Federal Communications Commission is taking steps to repeal a law that has been in place since 1975. On Wednesday, the FCC released a statement highlighting the proposed change to the blackout rule, which allows sporting events to be made unavailable in a market if it is not broadcast by a local station. Cable and satellite television stations are prevented from carrying the signal of a non-local station that is carrying the event.

“We recognize that elimination of our sports blackout rules alone might not end sports blackouts, but it would leave sports carriage issues to private solutions negotiated by the interest parties in light of current market conditions and eliminate unnecessary regulation,” the FCC said.

To some, this is an indication that the communications watchdog is enough support for the five commissioners to eliminate the rule.

Proponents of black outs say that such a move would help teams that have a hard time filling their stadiums. Fans who cannot see their favorite squad on television are more likely to show up to watch the games in person. However, those who would like the blackout rule eliminated say it is an outdated protocol. The NFL and Major League Baseball have opposed the elimination of the rule. 

In retaliation, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have proposed eliminating the antitrust exemption for sports leagues if they do not stop including sweeping blackout provisions in contracts.