Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) today did sports fans a huge solid by including a provision in his new telecom bill that would eliminate the sports blackout rule in stadiums that have received, in part or whole, public financing. Sports Fans Coalition applauds Sen. McCain for standing up for fans and putting an end to this antiquated and unethical practice.
McCain’s bill — the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 — primarily addresses the bundling of cable and satellite programming so that consumers can have “a la carte” programming. The bill also seeks to discourage broadcasters from taking their networks to cable by pulling their licenses if they do so. But most importantly for sports fans, it includes a provision eliminating the Sports Broadcasting Act’s sports blackout rule.
To review, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 — which was pushed through Congress by then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle — allows teams to collectively negotiate broadcast contracts and allows teams to black out home games on broadcast television in the local markets. The SBA thus codified the anti-fan practice of blacking out fans from seeing their favorite teams play home games.
Here’s the provision of the Sports Broadcasting Act that relates to blackouts:
[The Sports Broadcasting Act] shall not apply to any joint agreement… which prohibits any person to whom rights are sold or transferred from televising any games within any area, except within the home territory of a member club of the league on a day when such club is playing a game at home.
Because the SBA only refers to broadcasting of games, the FCC later adopted its sports blackout rule, which states that if a local broadcaster can’t air a home game, then cable and satellite providers cannot either. (As you know, Sports Fans Coalition has asked the FCC to eliminate its rule.)
So here’s the key provision in McCain’s legislation:
SPORTS BLACKOUT REPEAL FOR PUBLICLY FINANCED STADIUMS
The Commission shall amend subpart F of part 76 of subchapter C of chapter I of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations (47 C.F.R. 76.92 et seq.), to prohibit the application of sports blackout regulations to the broadcast of a sporting event taking place in a venue the construction of which was financed, in whole or in part, by the Federal Government or a State or local government.
Once again, a huge THANK YOU to Sen. John McCain for looking out for sports fans and fighting to end blackouts.