Sports Blackouts

This week I wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that it solicit public comment on blackouts of sporting events. League policies, federal rules, and disputes between companies have made it unreasonably difficult for fans to watch their teams play. Given the investment that fans make in their teams by purchasing tickets and merchandise and through public financing of stadiums, I believe any blackout is unfair.

Connecticut residents are quite aware of these problems. Earlier this year, UConn men’s basketball fans were dismayed to learn that the Huskies game was only available on cable, preventing many from seeing the first game of UConn’s championship run. Fans were unable to watch a Giants-Vikings game last year when the game was moved to Monday night and disputes between networks prevented it from being shown in Connecticut. In 2007, the historic Patriots-Giants game was initially unavailable over broadcast, depriving many residents of the opportunity to see their favorite teams finish the season.

Sports programming has changed dramatically since Congress and the FTC issued rules on sports blackouts in the 1960s and 1970s. An opportunity for public discussion on these changes would serve sports leagues, programmers, and, most importantly, fans by identifying alterations that could be made to ensure that the public interest is served by reducing or eliminating blackouts and by preserving widespread access to sports programming on free or low-cost outlets. 

UPDATE:

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to my request that they allow the public to comment on a petition to eliminate sports blackouts. Allowing fans an opportunity to express their views to the commission should lead to swift action ending sports blackouts and allowing fans more access to sports programming.

The FCC is accepting comments until February 13. I will be submitting my own thoughts on this issue and I encourage you to add your voice as well. To share your thoughts on sports blackouts click here to submit comments online.

UPDATE:

Click here to see my comments on the FCC sports blackout rule.