POLITICS: PennAve

Senators urge FCC to sack NFL blackout rule

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Sports,NFL,PennAve,Sean Lengell,John McCain,Television,Richard Blumenthal,FCC,Blackouts

A bipartisan pair of senators have called on the Federal Communications Commission to end its "obsolete" TV blackout policy for NFL games and other live sporting events within the next 60 days.

A public comment period on an FCC proposal to eliminate the blackout rule ended March 25, and Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., say the FCC has had enough time to review the situation.

"Now that the comment deadline has long passed, we urge the commission to move forward expeditiously on eliminating the sports blackout rule," the senators said in a joint letter sent this week to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler. "The commission has collected the facts and has a rich public record upon which to base a decision. Now it must act."

The senators said the rule unfairly harms consumers by "insulating the NFL from market realities" and punishing fans in cities with large stadiums and declining populations.

Under the NFL's policy, teams must enforce TV broadcast blackouts in the home team's primary media market if at least 85 percent of seats aren't sold within 72 hours of kickoff, though the league sometimes grants extensions if teams are close to selling out.

The NFL has pushed back at the FCC's proposal to end the rule, saying such a move is unnecessary because there are far fewer blackouts compared with when the rule first was implemented 40 years ago.

"While affecting very few games the past decade, the blackout rule is very important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of NFL clubs to sell tickets and keeping our games attractive as television programming with large crowds," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in December.

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