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Sports Fan Coalition Pitches Two-Year Sunset of Sports Blackout Rule

In the wake of the
NFL's changes to its own blackout rule, and some teams' decision not to take
advantage of the relaxed restrictions, the Sports Fans Coalition has renewed
its callfor ending the FCC's blackout rule.

The FCC rule
essentially puts the FCC's force behind a contractual obligation. It prohibits
cable and satellite companies from carrying sports contests -- NFL games in
particular -- that have been blacked out on broadcast TV due to contractual

a letter to the FCC from Brian Frederick, Sports Fan Coalition executive director
the coalition asked the FCC to let the rule expire in two years unless its
supporters can provide evidence it is needed.

The NFL owners, in
their May meeting, voted to allow teams to set a lower ticket-sales threshold
trigger for local TV carriage of a game. The league used to require 100% of
non-premium tickets be sold 72 hours before game time, or the game could not be
shown on local TV. It has now let teams lower that threshold to as little as
85%. Team response has been mixed, says the coalition.

The coalition says
the NFL move demonstrates that one, "the statements by the NFL and others
in this proceeding that local blackouts must be maintained to preserve the
financial health of the league6 are belied by the NFL's own actions, and two,
given the mixed reaction, that it is not clear whether the NFL's change will
have any material effect or be "a Trojan Horse in shoulder pads."

For that reason,
they argue, the FCC should put an automatic two-year sunset on its rule that
will clear it from the books unless the NFL or others can provide evidence that
its continuation is in the public interest.

"With a
two-year time frame," the coalition said, "the commission may take
into account any effects of the NFL's new blackout policy. If the new policy
fails after two years to curtail blackouts in the hardest-hit markets, the
Commission can decide at that time whether the Sports Blackout Rule should
remain in place."