FCC Commissioner Pushing to End NFL Blackouts, Television Regulations

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The NFL’s rules regarding blackouts are so lame that, if they were ever a problem for a big market franchise, the league would face riots. For those in need of a refresher, the NFL requires television broadcasters to keep any game that isn’t sold out three days before the start off the air in the team’s home market.

That’s lame in and of itself, but it’s compounded by the FCC ruling, which prohibits providers from airing sports events in blacked out markets — the net result is essentially the chastising of an entire community. One of the five FCC commissioners recognizes that, and is taking the first steps toward fixing this impropriety.

Ajit Pai (pictured above, left), born in Buffalo, New York, is keen to the plight of suffering fan bases. After citing the perennial losses that Buffalo fans have embraced over the years — lost Super Bowls, lost teams, lost triple overtime NHL games — Pai mentioned that, “The heartbreak isn’t even limited to the playing field. Over the last four seasons, nine Buffalo Bills home games have been blacked out in Western New York.”

“I don’t believe the government should intervene in the marketplace and help sports leagues enforce their blackout policies,” Pai told reporters on Tuesday. “Our job is to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners.” The league, represented by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is arguing that the blackout rules should stand, since it could lead to conflicts with the NFL’s own agreements with networks about how to handle blackouts. Goodell also mentioned that televised, network football might suffer the most if the blackout was repealed.

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“We are 99 percent sold out, so it has very little impact on our business,” Goodell said earlier this year. “But it could have an impact on the overall business model for free television. We think that’s devastating to our consumers and consumers in general.” This is, largely speaking, a threat that isn’t a threat  — that the NFL is in a position to take away the televised games you don’t have to pay for, and that adjusting the FCC’s blackout rules could push them to punish people that watch games on network television.

Which, actually, makes zero sense, since the network television channels are free to work out deals with the NFL, regardless of the federal regulations on sporting blackouts. If fewer football games are offered on conventional channels, the blame lies entirely with Goodell and company, not with the FCC. That’s an important thing to remember in the future, as the league will try to fight this every step of the way. Pai’s complete statement on the blackouts, the NFL, and the FCC is embedded below, courtesy of RyanVanBibber.

Pai Sports Blackout Remarks 8-12-14 by RyanVanBibber