End Sports Blackouts Now!

At today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the television and video marketplace, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Furthering Access to Network Sports (FANS) Act. This bill aims to eliminate the cause of most sports blackouts: take-downs during retransmission consent disputes.

When broadcasters and pay-TV distributors argue over contract terms, too often it’s the consumer that gets caught in the middle when programming is taken down during a dispute.  And more often than not, that consumer is a sports fan who just wants to watch the game. The leagues have the power to stop this but have failed to do so. This year alone, there have been more than 30 blackouts — most of which happened during the college football bowls and NFL post-season games.

The US government has given the NFL and other sports leagues a powerful antitrust exemption in the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. However, the taxpaying fan has received nothing in return for this exemption. By conditioning the NFL’s and other sports leagues’ antitrust exemption on prohibiting distributors from taking down games during a retransmission consent dispute, we can effectively eliminate a major source of TV blackouts.

“Sports Fans Coalition commends Senator Blumenthal for stepping up to protect fans where the leagues have failed,” said Brian Hess, Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. “For too long, fans have been sidelined during retransmission consent disputes. Sports on broadcast television should be available to everyone and fans should not have to worry about losing their games because two companies can’t come to terms.”

This is the third time Senator Blumenthal has introduced this legislation. Both times prior, the late Senator John McCain cosponsored the FANS Act.  Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the House.

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