Statement from Scott Weiss, New York/Tri-State Chapter Chair:
Once again, sports fans are being treated like a political football as giant broadcast, cable, and satellite corporations battle over contract terms. This time, millions of Time Warner Cable, DISH, DirecTV and Bright House subscribers risk missing the PGA championship this weekend, not to mention NFL exhibition games and other pre-season action. All told, viewers in over 50 markets around the country are currently blacked out from some programming – an all-time high. Adding insult to injury, CBS is making sure that some fans cannot get their sports over the Internet, either.
Sports Fans Coalition — as we did starting in 2010 – again calls for the FCC to prohibit the taking down of sporting events during these contract disputes between broadcasters and their cable/satellite distributors.
The idea is simple: the FCC already has rules on the books prohibiting some kinds of programming take-downs. Sports are a unique kind of programming, subsidized with tax breaks, antitrust exemptions, and outright taxpayer subsidies for stadiums and arenas. It should be against the law to deny taxpayers something they’ve already helped to pay for by taking away sports from fans to gain negotiating leverage during a business dispute.
New Yorkers aren’t shy about getting their money’s worth. They should demand that sports be put back on TV or the leagues, broadcasters, and anyone else who received a public subsidy pay it back in full to the American people.
Contact: Scott Weiss, New York/Tri-State Chapter Chair, Sports Fans Coalition (908) 591-8602
The following are excerpts from a June 14, 2010 Federal Communications Commission filing by Sports Fans Coalition, recommending the prohibition against taking down sporting events during retransmission consent disputes:
“When it comes to retransmission consent disputes, the fans who are vital to the success of the game and who have contributed to its success through multiple public and private expenditures are treated like a fumbled pigskin.”
“Sports fans do not care who wins in these disputes or how they get resolved. Fans simply want to avoid being held hostage as broadcasters battle over fees with pay-TV providers.”
“Without sports fans, there would be no sports media economy. The fans buy the tickets, watch the games, pay for their sports tiers, purchase their sports packages, and wildly support their teams. That support is reflected in the public goods granted by government to keep the games going. Broadcasters, who receive their FCC licenses from the public at no cost, acquire television rights from professional sports leagues, who negotiate those rights under a special federal antitrust exemption enacted just for that purpose, or collegiate leagues, who enjoy non-profit tax status and often federal and state subsidies. The televised games often are played in stadiums and arenas built with taxpayer dollars or regulatory waivers. In addition to the public goods spent on sports, the fans themselves pay for sports programming with the legitimate expectation that they will watch the games for which they pay.”
“From the fans’ perspective, the best solution would be a rule that prohibits broadcasters from pulling their signals—and blocking access to sporting events—in the first place. The FCC has a long history of laying down ground rules for what is and is not permissible behavior during a retransmission consent negotiation. Cable providers, for example, may not take down broadcast signals during a Nielsen ratings sweeps period. This rule is designed to protect ratings harm to broadcasters during a negotiation. Why not protect sports fans, too?”
The complete text of the filing can be found at: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020504885