FCC votes to overturn blackout rules barring poorly-attended games from television
By RYAN GORMAN
The Federal Communications Commission has voted to strike down hated sports blackouts.
FCC commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to repeal the rules that allowed sports leagues, mainly the NFL, to bar regions from watching their home teams on television if games did not sell out.
The decades-old statute barred sparsely attended games from being broadcast on networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC. It also stopped cable and satellite providers from showing the games in those markets.
"Today we are blowing the whistle on an anti-fan practice," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a September 9 editorial in USA Today. "The NFL should no longer be able to hide behind government rules that punish loyal fans."
Fans of losing teams have long hated the rule for forcing them to watch teams they had no rooting interest in as opposed to their beloved losers.
The NFL, which shows one to two games a week on paid cable channels like ESPN and the NFL Network, warned in the days leading up to the vote that repealing the rule would result in more games moving from broadcast television, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
This ominous warning came despite the NFL perennially ranking as the highest-rated sport on television and raking in lucrative revenues that other sports can't even fathom earning.
The rule was originally voted into place in 1975 as fans attended less sporting events and teams began to suffer financially. But that is no longer the case.
"The NFL no longer needs the governments help to remain viable," Wheeler continued. "And we at the FCC shouldn't be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV. It's time to sack the sports blackout rules for good."
Wheeler contends that about 40 percent of games failed to sell out when the rule was voted into place. Every single game sold out last weekend. Only two games were blacked out last season.
The league can still write blackout rules into broadcast rights contracts with networks, according to the Washington Post, but broadcast bans are no longer the law of the land.
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