Blumenthal Calls on FCC to End Sports Blackout Rule

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) this week in issuing a letter to the Acting Chair of the Federal Communications Commission Mignon Clyburn urging her to move forward on a determination of whether the so-called Sports Blackout Rule remains in the public interest. Initially established decades ago to encourage fans to purchase tickets to attend games, the rule currently limits broadcasting of sporting events and helps to unfairly restricts the ability of fans to watch games on television.  

Connecticut sports fans and consumers have long been frustrated by the Sports Blackout. The time has come for this unfair rule to be eliminated. Ending this rule is one of several steps that will make more sports programming available to consumers. The FCC has ample authority to change this rule, and I urge Acting FCC Commissioner Clyburn to utilize her existing authority and move forward with a determination that this rule no longer serves the public interest,” Blumenthal said.

 

The text of the letter is below.

 

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.

 

Sincerely,

 

John McCain

Richard Blumenthal