Senators teed off about NFL TV policy


Love of football is a bipartisan thing, and it has resulted in 13 US Senators firing off a letter to the NFL over its use of the NFL Network for late season games. The senators, led by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), say that too many fans who’d like to watch are left in the dark. The reference was to an eight game schedule being offered on the NFL’s O&O cable channel. The NFL responded that the games would be a lot more accessible if cable operators would stop shunting the channel off onto high cost channel tiers. In fact, the NFL is one of a handful of independent cable channels pleading its case before an administrative law judge at the behest of the FCC.

The games are available over the air in the markets of the two teams. The Senators point out that the practice leaves millions who don’t happen to live in an NFL town out in the cold. Specter cited Johnstown PA, rabid Pittsburgh Steeler territory but also a DMA in its own right and therefore unprotected by the over-the-air exception.

The senatorial group was even more inclusive than usual. In addition to Republicans and Democrats, it included the body’s only sitting independents. Others signing the letter include Ken Salazar (D-CO), Wayne Allard (R-CO),  Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Thune (R-SD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and John Barrasso(R-WY).

RBR/TVBR observation: The term “grandstanding” may be particularly appropriate here. NFL games are inventory to the NFL, and the league should have the right to distribute its inventory exactly as it sees fit. We loved the Washington Senators when they were in town up until 1971, but we didn’t get to see more than a handful of games over the air, and there weren’t any legislators hopping up and down on our behalf. It’s a game, Senators. Leave the NFL alone.