Senator Schedules Sports Blackout Hearing

WASHINGTON -- As expected, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 19 on The FANS Act, legislation backed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would remove the antitrust exemption for sports leagues that include blackouts of game broadcasts in their licensing agreements.

It is actually the rescheduling of a hearing initially targeted for before the election.

At the urging of Blumenthal, among others, the Federal Communications Commission 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 was 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.

 The hearing is titled: "The FANS Act: Are Sports Blackouts and Antitrust Exemptions Harming Fans, Consumers, and the Games Themselves?"

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.