Judiciary Moves Up Sports Hearing Time

The Senate Judiciary Committee has moved its sports blackout hearing starting time to 10:15 a.m. on Thursday.

The hearing, "The FANS Act: Are Sports Blackouts and Antitrust Exemptions Harming Fans, Consumers, and the Games Themselves?" will be presided over by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.), who backs the bill, which would eliminate the antitrust exemption for sports leagues that impose blackouts in their rights deals with program distributors.

The hearing was originally planned for October, then moved to Nov. 19, then rescheduled for Dec. 4 at 10:30.

Lead-off witness is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). At the urging of McCain, Blumenthal, and others (see below), the FCC earlier this year voted to eliminate its sports blackout rules, which backstopped those contractual blackouts, but that did not change the fact that the leagues — the National Football League is the prime target — were still free to make such blackouts part of their rights contracts.

The NFL argued the policy was to protect the stadium revenues and jobs sustained by fans in the seats.

A second panel comprises Bill Lake, chief of the FCC's Media Bureau; David Goodfriend, chair of the Sports Fan Coalition, which was instrumental in getting the FCC blackout rule scrubbed; Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, and Gerard Waldron, partner at Covington & Burling.

John Eggerton

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.