The most powerful regulators of media and communications in the U.S. heard from our Most Valuable Policymaker yesterday and the results were great for fans.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who was honored at Sports Fans Coalition’s “Most Valuable Policymaker” (MVP) awards last year, grilled FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other four FCC Commissioners at a Senate oversight hearing about blackouts of sports events and why the FCC isn’t doing more to stop them. Citing the proceeding instigated by SFC to end the Sports Blackout Rule, Sen. Blumenthal pressed Chairman Genachowski on why the FCC hasn’t done more. Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
BLUMENTHAL: Finally, because my time is limited: Blackouts. Sports blackouts. Grave concern, deeply troubling, especially to many in Connecticut. When they see that their favorite football team on Sunday or their favorite baseball team or their college sports team has been blacked out in their area. The commission, as you know, put out a notice of inquiry but hasn’t yet moved to a notice of rulemaking. I wrote to the FCC back in 2011 to ask that you open this proceeding to discuss whether the nearly 40 year-old sports blackout rule, I think it’s 40 years old, is still relevant in today’s environment. And I wonder if you could give me an update, a status report, on where you are on this issue, which is profoundly important to people in Connecticut, but I think across the nation.
GENACHOWSKI: Blackouts are of tremendous concern to consumers, we certainly hear from them as you do. An area where it comes up too often is the retransmission consent area. This is an area where we’ve had discussions with the committee in the past and look forward to continuing it, as it may be time to update those provisions to reduce the chances of blackouts during retransmission consent negotiations.
Thank you, Sen. Blumenthal! Sports fans across America once again can see that you’re on their side. Blackouts are obnoxious. They abuse the very public that helped pay for sports through public stadium subsidies and through massive exemptions to the law enacted by Congress. Whether a local blackout ordered by a sports league or a take-down during a contract dispute, it’s the fan who suffers. It has to end. Sen. Blumenthal gets it.