The following is a guest post from Brian Frederick, Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Public Knowledge works with the Sports Fans Coalition against sports blackouts because we think that the FCC should not have rules that keep fans from watching games.
if you’re not a sports fan, you should be concerned about how professional
sports owners are manipulating the system to take in massive public subsidies
and privatize the profits. Sports leagues receive benefits from the public that
no other businesses do, such as the right to collectively negotiate their
broadcast contracts. In the case of the National Football League (NFL), those
contracts will earn the league $6 billion per year starting in 2015. Owners are
then able to use this monopolistic power to force cities to build expensive
stadiums that are horrible wastes of taxpayer dollars.
do leagues like the NFL repay the public for these benefits? By blacking out games
on television if fans don’t buy enough tickets. Blackouts have plagued cities
like Tampa, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Oakland, San Diego, and Jacksonville.
Considering it costs an average of over $400 to take a family of four to one
game, it’s no wonder some teams are having trouble selling tickets.
than lowering the ticket prices (duh), the owners force fans to buy tickets.
Worse, our federal government actually has laws that uphold the practice of
blacking out games. Local broadcasters must follow league policies on blackouts
because of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, the same law that enables them
to collectively negotiate those giant broadcasting contracts. Cable and
satellite carriers, meanwhile, are also prohibited from carrying a game if the
local broadcaster can’t because of the FCC’s sports blackout rule. This rule
was put in place in 1975 without any mandate from Congress. Basically, the FCC
just decided to prop up the leagues’ policies.
after the hard work of Sports Fans Coalition, Public Knowledge and
a few other public interest groups, the FCC has decided to review its blackout rule. When the FCC’s
decision was announced, Commissioner Robert McDowell said: “Taking a fresh look at this 36-year-old
rule could be constructive as we look for rules to streamline and
modernize. Over almost four decades, the economics and structure of both
the sports and communications industries have experienced dramatic
of Congress from both houses and both parties have expressed support for ending
blackouts and now it’s up to us. The FCC is asking the public to comment on the
petition put forth by Sports Fans Coalition, Public Knowledge and others
between now and February 13, which is this coming Monday. To make it easy for
fans, taxpayers and media consumers to weigh in on this issue, we have created
a website: EndBlackouts.com.
We will compile all the comments from the public and submit them directly to
if you’re not in an area affected by blackouts, you should care. Why? First,
you might be someday. Second, if owners are allowed to continue to black out
fans, they can drive up ticket prices and force cities to pay for lavish
stadiums. Third, the sports/media complex has become so powerful that it
threatens our freedom to use the media we love. The NFL and MLB both supported
SOPA/PIPA and will continue to fight to control our use of information.
please take a second to submit your comment at EndBlackouts.com and
encourage others to do so, as well, by sharing this on Facebook and Twitter.
This is a truly unique and historic opportunity to show that concerned
citizens can take on some of the most powerful interests in America and change