FCC votes to disallow NFL blackouts
The Chargers first two home games of the season, (both wins!) have been televised locally, the first because it was a Monday Night game, and the second because KFMB and others purchased the remaining tickets. Currently, none of the Chargers six remaining home games are sold out, and therefore could have been subject to the infamous Blackout Rule.
“Could have been” because, in an historic, game-changing action, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) unanimously decided by a 5-0 count to end the fan-despised, widely-regarded as unfair NFL Blackout procedure. The rule, in effect since instituted by the NFL with no objection from the government agency that regulates the airwaves (and now almost all mass communication) in 1975, has been the subject of stronger and more organized protest lately.
The NFL strongly opposed the ruling, stating that the rule is necessary for the financial success of the individual teams. The effort to strike down the protocol of not showing games on free television if the stadiums in which they are played are not sold-out two days before the games are played was spearheaded by the current chairperson of the FCC, Tom Wheeler. The campaign to overturn the government mandate of the rule had been starting by acting chairman Mignon Clyburn two years ago.
The FCC’s argument was that when the rule was established by the NFL 29 years ago, the NFL teams profit was generated by the sale of tickets to their home games. Now, despite the rocketing prices of those tickets, the enormous deal with the television networks provides the largest part of their revenue. Therefore, the blackouts are no longer relevant or necessary, and in fact are not fair, and now, not legal.
In addition to the FCC decision, members of Congress are seeking to pass a bill removing the NFL’s antitrust exemption if the league does not stop all blackouts of games. The believe their bill will get the needed push to pass through the Senate and House of Representatives following the FCC’s vote.