U.S. FCC Proposes Ending TV Sports Blackout Rule

December 18, 2013 2:22 PM EST
(Updated - December 18, 2013 2:28 PM EST)

U.S. FCC proposes ending TV sports blackout rule.

The FCC's move could have an impact on over-the-air broadcasters like CBS and FOX, cable channels like Disney's ESPN, and satellite subscription TV like DirecTV.

The following statement is the proposal, which can be fully accessed here (in pdf format):

We propose to eliminate the sports blackout rules. The sports blackout rules were first adopted nearly four decades ago to ensure that the potential loss of gate receipts resulting from cable system importation of distant stations did not lead sports clubs to refuse to sell their rights to sports events to distant stations, which would reduce the overall availability of sports programming to the public.63 The rules were extended to open video systems and then to satellite carriers to provide parity between cable and newer video distributors.64 The sports industry has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, however, and the Petitioners argue that the economic rationale underlying the sports blackout rules may no longer be valid. Below we seek comment on whether we have authority to repeal the sports blackout rules. Next, we examine whether the economic considerations that led to adoption of the sports blackout rules continue to justify our intervention in this area. Finally, we propose to eliminate the sports blackout rules and seek comment on the potential benefits and harms of that proposed action on interested parties, including sports leagues, broadcasters, and consumers.

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