FCC Votes to End Blackout Rule

Sherrill Fulghum By Sherrill Fulghum, 5th Oct 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Sport

The FCC rules on ending the "blackout" rule for sports broadcasts.

The Blackout Rule

For nearly 40 years frustrated football fans have had to deal with not being able to watch their favourite teams on Sundays because the National Football League had a rule in place that denied local fans of viewing the game on television if the stadium wasn't sold out. The law also pertained to Cable and Satellite stations who were denied transmitting certain games in certain markets.

On September 30 the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to end the sports blackout rule. However, change in the law may not have any effect on local broadcast stations. The ruling is ecpected to go into effect about six weeks after the vote...around the middle of November.

While the NFL has strongly opposed the voting down of the law, only two NFL games were blacked out last season. The ruling was not limited to the NFL – the rules most vocal supporter – but applys to all professional sports teams.

Speaking on the ruling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “it's a simple fact, the federal government should not be party to sports teams keeping their fans from viewing the games — period. For 40 years these teams have hidden behind a rule of the FCC. No more. Everyone needs to be aware of who allows blackouts to exist, and it is not the Federal Communications Commission.”

The NFL is a $9 billion dollar industry that no longer depends solely on ticket sales to generate funding; in recent years the NFL derives most of its income from television viewing rights – fees received from networks, cable companies, and satellite providers for the rights to broadcast the games.

The league’s defeat on blackouts comes at a time when it’s taking heat in Washington on everything from how it handles domestic violence to the impact of concussions on its players to the name of the Washington Redskins team. As the negative publicity mounts, some lawmakers say they want to examine the NFL’s tax status and antitrust exemption — a move that threatens to damage the league’s business model.

Over the summer, the NFL and it broadcast partners launched a campaign to keep the blackout rule in place claiming that they wanted to keep the games “free”; arguing that the abolishing the blackout rule would “hasten the migration of NFL programming to pay TV and ultimately depriving many fans of he ability to watch the games.” However, under the current arrangement not all games are available to viewers; especially with the current trend of “cutting the cord” The NFL has a cable/satellite network that carries weekly games and ESPN broadcasts weekly games. Both networks are only available to TV viewers who pay monthly fees to cable or satellite providers...depriving antenna and box using football fans of at least two games each week. Baseball, basketball, and hockey leagues also have their own cable/satellite networks that broadcast numerous games each week.

Prior to the vote, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement, “with or without the rule, the league will continue to work to find new ways to bring more people to the game, and bring the game to more people.”

The ruling comes at a time when the NFL is facing a crisis of identity. Recently the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have been taking hits for their reactions to domestic abuse, violent behaviour, and one of its own teams' names.

Various members of Congress are also beginning to look at the NFL in regards to antitrust laws and tax exemptions.


Congress, Fcc, Federal Communications Commission, Football Blackouts, National Football League, Nfl, Roger Goodell, Tom Wheeler

Meet the author

author avatar Sherrill Fulghum
Sherrill is an award winning journalist with a speciality in music and entertainment. She is also a photographer.

Sherril is a writer for thedailyvoice news.com

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