The FCC has finally moved to get rid of the ridiculous "blackout rule" in an era where people on the web watch the NFL on their tablets, phones, and PCs along with their TVs.
The FCC dumped the sports blackout rule Tuesday, dealing a blow to the NFL at a time of growing scrutiny for the league in Washington.
In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the commission eliminated the decades-old regulation, which prevents cable and satellite TV from airing games that are blacked out locally when the team fails to sell enough tickets to fill its stadium. The NFL has defended the rule as a tool to ensure robust attendance, but a growing number of regulators and lawmakers say it unfairly punishes football fans.
Perhaps NFL venues should lower ticket prices, parking fees, and do away with seat licenses in order to increase attendance. Not even the lowliest teams like the Raiders or Bucs are hurting for money these days where the league has a multi-billion dollar contract after contract with networks, and they even have their own cable outfit showing games 24/7.
“It’s a simple fact, the federal government should not be party to sports teams keeping their fans from viewing the games — period,” said Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “For 40 years these teams have hidden behind a rule of the FCC. No more. Everyone needs to be aware of who allows blackouts to exist, and it is not the Federal Communications Commission.”
The league’s defeat on blackouts comes at a time when it’s taking heat in Washington on everything from how it handles domestic violence to the impact of concussions on its players to the name of the Washington Redskins team. As the negative publicity mounts, some lawmakers say they want to examine the NFL’s tax status and antitrust exemption — a move that threatens to damage the league’s business model.
The sports blackout rule applies to all professional sports teams, but it’s become closely linked to the NFL, which uses it the most and has fought hardest to keep it in place.
“We’ll review the FCC’s decision on the blackout rule, which has worked for decades to make our games available,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday ahead of the vote. “With or without the rule, the league will continue to work to find new ways to bring more people to the game, and bring the game to more people.”
The tax exemption for sports leagues has to go, not just for the NFL. The big four pro sports leagues make tens of billions of dollars every year on tickets, merchandising, TV contracts and stadium naming rights. Pretty sure they can stand on their own two feet and start putting money into the cities that host these teams instead of demanding tax breaks and sweetheart deals through extortion.
I think you'll see that happening in the next 5-10 years. Sports franchises are billion dollar plus businesses. Time to tax them like it.