Skip to main content

Clock Starts On Sports Blackout Rule Comments

The clock has started on comments in the FCC's proposal to scrap its sports blackout rules.

The FCC voted Dec. 17 in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to eliminate the rules. The FCC set the comment date on the proposal for 30 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register, with reply comments due after that.

The NPRM was published Jan. 24.

The rules, adopted 40 years ago, prohibit cable and satellite providers from carrying the game if it is blacked out on over-the-air TV due to insufficient ticket sales.

The move comes as changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether it is in the public interest to maintain the blackout, particularly at the current price of a ticket and the state of the economy, which was former acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn's argument for teeing up the item for a vote during her busy tenure.

Getting rid of the rule does not prevent the NFL from continuing to include blackouts in its contracts. The league opposed the rule change, arguing that getting rid of the rule would "undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.