Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stuck up for thousands of sports fans today affected by blackouts. The two senators formally called for the Federal Communications Commission to actually figure out how to address sports blackouts rather than sitting by and watching the sports leagues black out elderly, disabled and disadvantaged sports fans.
As most of you know, last year, Sports Fans Coalition and others successfully lobbied the FCC to open a hearing on its Sports Blackout Rule, which basically states that if a game is blacked out on broadcast television, it can’t also be shown on cable or satellite. The rule was adopted in the 70′s — not at the request of Congress, mind you — in order to appease broadcasters and the NFL. In the last year, several members of Congress have weighed in, thousands of sports fans have written to the FCC, public interests groups weighed in, and top sports economists filed a paper showing that “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL.”
However, the FCC has so far failed to act on the issue. So today, McCain and Blumenthal called on the FCC to move to a “Notice of Public Rulemaking,” which essentially means that the FCC should ask the public what should be done about the Sports Blackout Rule and then make a final decision. It’s long past time the FCC changed a rule that is four decades old and sports fans around the country should thank McCain and Blumenthal for their continued leadership on this issue. They are true friends to sports fans.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
June 19, 2013
Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Re: MB Docket No. 12-3
Dear Acting Chairwoman Clyburn:
The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) should move to a Notice of Public Rulemaking (“NPRM”) regarding the so-called Sports Blackout Rule. It has been over a year since the Commission initiated this docket as a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) to determine whether the rule remains in the public interest. The record includes thousands of comments from concerned sports fans around the nation; detailed legal arguments by non-profit public interest groups, professional sports leagues, and industry associations; and a white paper submitted by nine sports economists. Commenters have put forth a wide range of proposals, from maintaining the Sports Blackout Rule in its current form, to establishing a sunset and renewal process, to eliminating the rule altogether. With so much detailed information on the record from such a wide range of stakeholders, it is time for the Commission to take the next logical step and move to a NPRM.
While Congress can effect change on this issue, the record in this proceeding demonstrates that legislation is not the only way to address this issue. It is important to note that Congress never instructed the Commission to promulgate the Sports Blackout Rule in the first place. The Commission therefore possesses ample authority to amend the Sports Blackout Rule sua sponte, without any action by Congress. In light of this, we not only urge you to move this proceeding to the NPRM phase but request that such NPRM seek comment on what would serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.
As such, we respectfully ask that you move to a NPRM regarding the so-called Sports Blackout Rule and utilize your existing authorities.