Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/3/13
The 40-year-old federal sports television blackout rules, which on occasion have left frustrated Buffalo Bills fans unable to watch their beloved team, appear headed for the dustbin of history. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday proposed eliminating the rules, which the National Football League, in particular, relied on in setting its blackout policy. “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,” said Mignon L. Clyburn, acting chairwoman of the FCC. The official end of the blackout rules is probably many months away, as the FCC filed the idea as a proposal in the Federal Register and will have to seek public comment before making a final decision on it. And even if the FCC officially eliminates its blackout rules, that doesn’t preclude sports leagues, broadcasters and cable and satellite providers from privately negotiating deals to black out certain sporting events in individual markets. Nevertheless, the FCC’s proposed change will put pressure on the NFL to abandon its blackout policy, said Matt Sabuda, president of the Buffalo Fan Alliance and the leading local figure in the effort to get the NFL to ease its television blackout policy. “This is probably the tipping point to get the NFL to get rid of its blackout rule altogether,” Sabuda said. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league will review the FCC proposal. “But it is worth noting that there have been no local TV blackouts of NFL home games through the first 133 games of the 2013 season,” Aiello said. But the Bills’ Oct. 13 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals was on target to be blacked out until team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. bought up the remaining available tickets two days before the game.
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