F.C.C. Eliminates Its Sports Blackout Rule, Rebuffing N.F.L.’s Push

F.C.C. Eliminates Its Sports Blackout Rule, Rebuffing N.F.L.’s Push

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WASHINGTON (New York Times) — The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate its sports blackout rule, which for nearly 40 years has prevented cable and satellite systems from televising some National Football League games.

The move is unlikely to eliminate the league’s attempts to black out games, which it can do on local broadcast channels when tickets to a game are not sold out. Because of the sport’s soaring popularity, however, only two N.F.L. games were blacked out locally last season.

The N.F.L. strongly opposed the F.C.C. action. But Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, echoed the sentiments of the five commissioners by saying: “It is not the place of the federal government to intervene in the private marketplace and help sports leagues enforce their blackout policies. It is the commission’s job to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners.”

While the N.F.L. and its supporters argued that eliminating the blackout rule would endanger the availability of games on free over-the-air television, members of the F.C.C. staff and commissioners said they believed that was unlikely, in part because the current N.F.L. broadcast contract extends through 2022.

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