NFL defends sports blackouts

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The NFL is pushing back against advocates who want the Federal Communications Commission to abandon the blackout rules for sporting events.

A new website launched by the NFL and broadcasters touts the controversial rule, which prevents sporting events from being televised when games are not well attended.

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The blackout rule “has been working for nearly four decades” and benefits local businesses, the site says.

“The rule promotes strong stadium attendance and benefits local restaurants, sports bars and other small businesses near the stadiums.”

That 1975 rule keeps cable and satellite TV companies from showing sporting events nationwide if a game is blacked out in the area where it’s being played.

The rule mostly affects football fans, as the NFL requires games to be blacked out when a stadium does not sell enough tickets.

The FCC voted in December to move forward with a proposal to take the rule off the books.

If the rule is eliminated, sports leagues would still be able to negotiate with broadcasters, cable and satellite companies to have games blacked out.

The FCC is under pressure to eliminate the rules from lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who have urged the agency to take action before football season begins in the fall.

“The rule unfairly harms consumers by insulating the NFL from market realities and punishing fans in cities with large stadiums and declining populations,” Blumenthal and McCain said in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this year.

But the rule’s supporters say the outcry over the black outs is insincere.

The NFL website pointed to lobbyists for the cable and satellite industry, who “have manufactured a controversy in an effort to change the current rule and charge fans for games that they currently watch for free.”

“We cannot let these special interests dictate what is best for NFL fans and their communities,” the site said.