Washington, DC/Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - A proposal has been announced by the FCC Chair to eliminate federal regulations that support sports blackouts.
FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said "Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games. Elimination of our sports blackout rules will not preven sports leagues, broadcasters, and cable and satellite providers from privatley negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events. Nevertheless, if the record in this proceeding shows that the rules are no longer justified, the Commission's involvement in this area should end."
The NFL has a policy of blacking out games that are not sold out to the home market. A 1961 federal law requires broadcasters to abide by the League’s blackout policy. On January 12, 2012 the FCC opened up a public comment period on a long-time FCC rule that requires cable or satellite providers to honor the blackout rule if it applies to the local affiliate it carries.
Last year the National Football League owners passed a resolution allowing teams to decide to broadcast games locally when more than 85% of the seats are filled, but not all teams opted into this policy.
“Blackout rules are unfair, outdated and alienate dedicated fans,” Congressman Brian Higgins said in a statement. He added that he will be asking the full FCC Board to follow through with this recommendation.
Matt Sabuda is with the Buffalo Fans Alliance, he says this is welcome news. "From what I understand it sounds like exactly what we were looking for," Sabuda said.
The Buffalo Bills have yet to black out a single regular season game this year. After this Sunday, two games in Orchard Park remain.