Updated 04:37 PM EST, Thu, Dec 03, 2020

NFL News: TV Blackouts Could End Next Year

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The National Football League has a practice of blacking out football games in the markets of teams who do not sell out games. According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, this practice could soon be over.

The proposal would overhaul 40-year-old rules that were written when watching games on television wasn't as popular as going to stadiums. In order to be implemented, it will need a final vote by the commission.

The FCC believes that the revamp will mostly affect the NFL. As the rule is written, if an NFL team does not sell out stadium tickets by Thursday, the local broadcast of that game is blacked out. The rule was originally designed to encourage fans to go out and buy tickets, but fans, lawmakers and satellite/cable providers have lobbied the FCC to change this. 

U.S. Senator John McCain has been one of the most prominent federal lawmakers in support of ending local TV blackouts if there is not a sellout.

"For more than a year we have urged the FCC to take this important step, arguing that the rule has outlived any usefulness and that it would be in the public's best interest to scrap it," McCain said in a joint statement with fellow senator Richard Blumenthal.

The general argument is that broadcasters and sports league officials have enriched themselves through the ban and the the NFL is avoiding found money and an increase in revenue of about 90 percent according to the Washington Post.

Interestingly the NFL has announced its opposition to any changes in the FCC regulation. This pushback is a result of its supposed effort to continue supporting local teams and stadiums. The league reports that it has also been taking measures to steadily decrease blocked out games over the years.

Despite this, the fact that this proposal was introduced at the FCC signals that there is enough initial support among the five-member commission to consider overhauling the blackout rule.

Communities that have been affected by the blackouts include markets such as San Diego, Tampa, and Jacksonville. For various reasons, these teams have not been able to consistently sell out their respective stadiums.  This policy has also resulted in last-minute ticket allocations in other cities so the football teams could announce sellouts in order to get their teams on television.

The vote to initiate a public commenting period was unanimous. A final vote on this matter could take place in the first half of 2015.

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