Sacked: FCC Eliminates Sports Blackout Rules

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has eliminated its sports blackout rules, which prohibit cable, satellite carriers, and open video systems from showing a sporting event that has been blacked out on a local broadcast station.  While the sports blackout rules were created in 1975 to protect sports leagues’ game ticket sales revenue, in recent years, they have had little relevance to leagues other than the National Football League (NFL) primarily because NFL games are shown on broadcast television.  The Commission voted unanimously to repeal the blackout rules upon a finding that the sports industry has changed substantially since the rules were adopted – television revenue has replaced game ticket revenue as the principal source of earnings for NFL teams.  It further concluded that elimination of the sports blackout rules will serve the public interest and will not adversely impact broadcasters, consumers, or local businesses.  The FCC’s action will not eliminate sports blackouts because sports leagues may continue to enter into and enforce private blackout policies.  However, sports leagues, such as the NFL, will no longer be entitled to the protection of the FCC’s sports blackout rules.

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