Sports MVPD blackouts on the FCC agenda


The FCC is taking comments on proposals to eliminate rules that force MVPDs to shut down broadcasts of local sporting events that are held off of local broadcast television stations. It cites a number of reasons for the proposal and established deadlines for comments. Commissioner Robert McDowell chimed in to welcome the proceeding.

The FCC listed points raised by petitioners asking for a red delete line through the blackout rules:

* The petitioners claim that the Commission should eliminate the sports blackout rules because the rules prevent consumers’ access to local sports events, particularly with ticket prices and unemployment at their current high levels.

* The petitioners also argue that sports leagues could privately negotiate the same results that the rule affords, and therefore the Commission’s rules, which tacitly endorse these private contracts, are unnecessary.

* Finally, the Petitioners assert that the Commission has the authority to make this rule change.

The deadline for comments on the issue, under MD Docket No. 12-3, is 2/13/12, with reply comments due 2/28/12.

Commissioner McDowell commented, “I am delighted that the Media Bureau is requesting comment on a petition seeking elimination of the Commission’s rules that prohibit multichannel video programming distributors from carrying a sporting event in a community if it is blacked out by the local broadcast station. Taking a fresh look at this 36-year-old rule could be constructive as we look for rules to streamline and modernize. Over almost four decades, the economics and structure of both the sports and communications industries have experienced dramatic evolutions. We now live in a world with not only local broadcast stations, but also cable, satellite, the Internet and wireless, and where television and merchandizing revenues exceed ticket sales. It is appropriate for us to re-examine the rule in light of marketplace changes.”