POLITICS: PennAve

FCC proposes ending sports television blackout rule

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Politics,Sports,NFL,Brian Hughes,PennAve,John McCain,Television,Richard Blumenthal,FCC,Blackouts

The Federal Communications Commission made public Thursday a new rule proposal that would essentially end blackouts of televised sporting events.

Under current regulations, television providers aren't allow to air certain games on local stations in which the event is not sold out. The rule is most heavily employed by the National Football League as a way to drive up ticket sales for Sunday games.

The proposal, which will officially be published Friday, questions the relevance of the blackout rule.

“Changes in the sports industry in the last four decades have called into question whether the sports blackout rules remain necessary to ensure the overall availability of sports programming to the general public,” the commission said.

“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 interested parties in light of current market conditions and eliminate unnecessary regulation,” the agency added.

In other words, professional sports leagues could always negotiate with television providers to put the blackout rule back in place.

The NFL has long resisted pushes to eliminate the blackout rule. But critics of the regulation say it punishes fans who can't afford the hefty price of a ticket.

A growing number of lawmakers -- Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., co-sponsored legislation last year -- have called for an end to the practice.

Starting Friday, individuals will have 30 days to weigh in on the commission's proposal, after which the agency will move forward with a final ruling.

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