An FCC Republican Wants to Stop NFL TV Blackouts

“Our job is to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners.”

NFL fans could miss the action if their teams fail to sell out playoff games.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Aug. 12, 2014, 9:21 a.m.

A Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion wants to re­peal an agency rule that pre­vents some sports fans from watch­ing their fa­vor­ite teams on TV.

“I don’t be­lieve the gov­ern­ment should in­ter­vene in the mar­ket­place and help sports leagues en­force their black­out policies,” FCC Com­mis­sion­er Ajit Pai said Tues­day. “Our job is to serve the pub­lic in­terest, not the private in­terests of team own­ers.”

The state­ment is the latest boost to the move­ment to end the FCC’s sports black­out rule. The com­mis­sion voted in Decem­ber to seek pub­lic com­ment on re­peal­ing the rule, and FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er has said he ex­pects to make a fi­nal de­cision this fall. Pai is one of two Re­pub­lic­ans on the five mem­ber com­mis­sion. 

The rule, first ad­op­ted in 1975, pro­hib­its cable and satel­lite TV pro­viders from show­ing a sports event in an area if the game is blacked out on loc­al broad­cast tele­vi­sion sta­tions.

Drop­ping the rule would have the biggest im­pact on the NFL, which re­quires broad­casters to black out games if the loc­al team does not sell out the sta­di­um. The agree­ments are in­ten­ded to en­cour­age fans to buy tick­ets to see the games live.

The NFL has been lob­by­ing the FCC to save the rule. The league’s le­gis­lat­ive dir­ect­or, Ken Ed­monds, met with an FCC aide last week to dis­cuss the is­sue, ac­cord­ing to a reg­u­lat­ory fil­ing.

The NFL ar­gues that the rule is ne­ces­sary to keep games on loc­al broad­cast chan­nels, which are free to ac­cess over the air. The league also says the rule boosts loc­al eco­nom­ies by en­sur­ing that more fans at­tend the game in per­son.

In Tues­day’s speech, Com­mis­sion­er Pai ac­know­ledged that re­peal­ing the rule won’t end all black­outs. The NFL could still force loc­al sta­tions to black­out games that don’t sell out.

But he ar­gued that the rule hurts con­sumers and serves no pur­pose any­more.

“The FCC shouldn’t get in­volved in hand­ing out spe­cial fa­vors or pick­ing win­ners and losers,” he said. “And, in my view, there is no reas­on for the FCC to be in­volved in the sports black­out busi­ness.”

Pai made the speech at an event in Buf­falo, N.Y., with Rep. Bri­an Hig­gins, a Demo­crat who has been ur­ging the FCC to re­peal its black­out rule for years. Sens. Richard Blu­menth­al and John Mc­Cain have also been work­ing to over­turn the rule.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×