January 04, 2014   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues, Uncategorized

CBSSports.com: NFL Blackout Rules Keep Taxpayers from Seeing Game in Stadiums They Fund

There have been a lot of great articles about the NFL’s absurd blackout policy in recent weeks, but this Gregg Doyel column over at CBSSports.com is highly recommended: read here.

 

December 18, 2013   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues

Another HUGE Victory! FCC Proposes Ending Sports Blackouts

Huge news today for sports fans! The FCC has proposed ending the sports blackout rule, which means that Sports Fans Coalition’s long march to end the rule is almost over. We’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, here’s a statement from SFC Chairman David Goodfriend:

“The American sports fan just won another round, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s latest action.  This is the beginning of the end of the Sports Blackout Rule in particular and government subsidization of anti-fan behavior by sports leagues more generally.  Sports fans look forward to sharing their views in this important proceeding now under way at the FCC.”

 

FLASHBACK:

ESPN: The Sports Fans Coalition

ESPN: NFL fans blacked out, riled up

NPR: Fans, Senators Ask FCC To Scrap Sports Blackout Rule

Bloomberg: NFL should drop TV blackout policy, five U.S. Senators tell FCC

Broadcasting & Cable: Sports Fan Coalition: FCC Needs to Throw Flag on Sports Blackouts

November 12, 2013   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues, Uncategorized

TOUCHDOWN! Senators Blumenthal and McCain Introduce the FANS Act of 2013

Sports fans just scored another touchdown in the fight to end anti-fan practices by the leagues. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) joined forces to introduce legislation today ending the leagues’ antitrust exemption for local sports blackouts and tying the remaining federal antitrust exemption to no more sports take downs during TV contract disputes. It’s a HUGE win for fans and a sign that momentum is on our side.

Sen. Blumenthal said: “Leagues that enjoy antitrust exemptions and billions of dollars in subsidies and other benefits should give their fans fair access to their favorite teams on TV. This legislation would protect fans who now get the short end of the stick from leagues that treat the public with contempt while continuing to enjoy public benefits. Fans deserve to be put first–or at least treated fairly.”

Sen. McCain said: “I am proud to join Senator Blumenthal to introduce the FANS Act, common-sense legislation that addresses archaic blackout policies and regulations that hurt sports fans around the country. While the FCC’S announcement last week that it would consider changes to the sports blackout rule is encouraging – and something we’ve urged in the past – legislation is still needed to improve this regulatory framework. The FANS Act would return the focus to the fans, consumers, and taxpayers who make these leagues as successful as they are.”

Sports Fans Coalition Chairman David Goodfriend said: ”Sports fans should not be treated like a fumbled pigskin every time there’s a fight between TV industry players. The FANS Act would get the job done. The idea is simple: if you’re a sports league and you want to use the federal antitrust exemption, you have to prohibit your distributors from taking down games during their contract disputes. In other words, if you want this big gift from the American people, then don’t drag them into your business negotiations.

Sports fans are grateful to Senators McCain and Blumenthal, two men with the guts to stick up for fans and stand up to the leagues. The American people have been subsidizing sports for a long time. It’s about time they got a return on their investment.

September 19, 2013   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues

Join Us for 2nd Annual “Most Valuable Policymaker” Awards Honoring Sens. McCain and Blumenthal!

Sports fans in the Washington, D.C. area, please join Sports Fans Coalition on Tuesday, October 1, at 6 pm as we honor Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) as our second annual “Most Valuable Policymakers.” Both of them are fighting hard to make sure fans aren’t blacked out from watching our favorite games. The event will take place on Capitol Hill at 201 Bar. Click here for details and please RSVP to be included on the list. Did we mention we’d have free beer coupons while supplies last!

August 06, 2013   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues

Millions of Sports Fans Facing Blackout of NFL Preseason Games, PGA Championship

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

June 19, 2013   |No Comments Blackouts, Uncategorized

McCain and Blumenthal Press FCC to Move on Sports Blackout Rule Decision

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stuck up for thousands of sports fans today affected by blackouts. The two senators formally called for the Federal Communications Commission to actually figure out how to address sports blackouts rather than sitting by and watching the sports leagues black out elderly, disabled and disadvantaged sports fans.

As most of you know, last year, Sports Fans Coalition and others successfully lobbied the FCC  to open a hearing on its Sports Blackout Rule, which basically states that if a game is blacked out on broadcast television, it can’t also be shown on cable or satellite. The rule was adopted in the 70′s — not at the request of Congress, mind you — in order to appease broadcasters and the NFL.  In the last year, several members of Congress have weighed in, thousands of sports fans have written to the FCC, public interests groups weighed in, and top sports economists filed a paper showing that “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL.”

However, the FCC has so far failed to act on the issue. So today, McCain and Blumenthal called on the FCC to move to a “Notice of Public Rulemaking,” which essentially means that the FCC should ask the public what should be done about the Sports Blackout Rule and then make a final decision. It’s long past time the FCC changed a rule that is four decades old and sports fans around the country should thank McCain and Blumenthal for their continued leadership on this issue. They are true friends to sports fans.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

June 19, 2013

Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20554

Re: MB Docket No. 12-3

Dear Acting Chairwoman Clyburn:

The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) should move to a Notice of Public Rulemaking (“NPRM”) regarding the so-called Sports Blackout Rule.  It has been over a year since the Commission initiated this docket as a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) to determine whether the rule remains in the public interest.  The record includes thousands of comments from concerned sports fans around the nation; detailed legal arguments by non-profit public interest groups, professional sports leagues, and industry associations; and a white paper submitted by nine sports economists.  Commenters have put forth a wide range of proposals, from maintaining the Sports Blackout Rule in its current form, to establishing a sunset and renewal process, to eliminating the rule altogether.  With so much detailed information on the record from such a wide range of stakeholders, it is time for the Commission to take the next logical step and move to a NPRM.

While Congress can effect change on this issue, the record in this proceeding demonstrates that legislation is not the only way to address this issue.  It is important to note that Congress never instructed the Commission to promulgate the Sports Blackout Rule in the first place.  The Commission therefore possesses ample authority to amend the Sports Blackout Rule sua sponte, without any action by Congress.  In light of this, we not only urge you to move this proceeding to the NPRM phase but request that such NPRM seek comment on what would serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

As such, we respectfully ask that you move to a NPRM regarding the so-called Sports Blackout Rule and utilize your existing authorities.

Sincerely,

John McCain

Richard Blumenthal

May 09, 2013   |1 Comment Blackouts, Blog, Issues, Stadiums

HUGE! McCain Introduces Legislation Prohibiting TV Blackouts in Stadiums Built with Public Money

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) today did sports fans a huge solid by including a provision in his new telecom bill that would eliminate the sports blackout rule in stadiums that have received, in part or whole, public financing. Sports Fans Coalition applauds Sen. McCain for standing up for fans and putting an end to this antiquated and unethical practice.

McCain’s bill — the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 — primarily addresses the bundling of cable and satellite programming so that consumers can have “a la carte” programming. The bill also seeks to discourage broadcasters from taking their networks to cable by pulling their licenses if they do so. But most importantly for sports fans, it includes a provision eliminating the Sports Broadcasting Act’s sports blackout rule.

To review, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 — which was pushed through Congress by then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle — allows teams to collectively negotiate broadcast contracts and allows teams to black out home games on broadcast television in the local markets. The SBA thus codified the anti-fan practice of blacking out fans from seeing their favorite teams play home games.

Here’s the provision of the Sports Broadcasting Act that relates to blackouts:

[The Sports Broadcasting Act] shall not apply to any joint agreement… which prohibits any person to whom rights are sold or transferred from televising any games within any area, except within the home territory of a member club of the league on a day when such club is playing a game at home.

Because the SBA only refers to broadcasting of games, the FCC later adopted its sports blackout rule, which states that if a local broadcaster can’t air a home game, then cable and satellite providers cannot either. (As you know, Sports Fans Coalition has asked the FCC to eliminate its rule.)

So here’s the key provision in McCain’s legislation:

SPORTS BLACKOUT REPEAL FOR PUBLICLY FINANCED STADIUMS

The Commission shall amend subpart F of part 76 of subchapter C of chapter I of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations (47 C.F.R. 76.92 et seq.), to prohibit the application of sports blackout regulations to the broadcast of a sporting event taking place in a venue the construction of which was financed, in whole or in part, by the Federal Government or a State or local government.

Once again, a huge THANK YOU to Sen. John McCain for looking out for sports fans and fighting to end blackouts.

March 13, 2013   |1 Comment Blackouts, Blog, Issues

Thanks to Sen. Blumenthal for Continuing to Fight Against Blackouts!

The most powerful regulators of media and communications in the U.S. heard from our Most Valuable Policymaker yesterday and the results were great for fans.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who was honored at Sports Fans Coalition’s “Most Valuable Policymaker” (MVP) awards last year, grilled FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other four FCC Commissioners at a Senate oversight hearing about blackouts of sports events and why the FCC isn’t doing more to stop them.  Citing the proceeding instigated by SFC to end the Sports Blackout Rule, Sen. Blumenthal pressed Chairman Genachowski on why the FCC hasn’t done more. Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

BLUMENTHAL: Finally, because my time is limited: Blackouts. Sports blackouts. Grave concern, deeply troubling, especially to many in Connecticut. When they see that their favorite football team on Sunday or their favorite baseball team or their college sports team has been blacked out in their area. The commission, as you know, put out a notice of inquiry but hasn’t yet moved to a notice of rulemaking. I wrote to the FCC back in 2011 to ask that you open this proceeding to discuss whether the nearly 40 year-old sports blackout rule, I think it’s 40 years old, is still relevant in today’s environment. And I wonder if you could give me an update, a status report, on where you are on this issue, which is profoundly important to people in Connecticut, but I think across the nation. 

GENACHOWSKI: Blackouts are of tremendous concern to consumers, we certainly hear from them as you do. An area where it comes up too often is the retransmission consent area. This is an area where we’ve had discussions with the committee in the past and look forward to continuing it, as it may be time to update those provisions to reduce the chances of blackouts during retransmission consent negotiations. 

Thank you, Sen. Blumenthal!  Sports fans across America once again can see that you’re on their side.  Blackouts are obnoxious.  They abuse the very public that helped pay for sports through public stadium subsidies and through massive exemptions to the law enacted by Congress.  Whether a local blackout ordered by a sports league or a take-down during a contract dispute, it’s the fan who suffers.  It has to end.  Sen. Blumenthal gets it.

December 21, 2012   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues

Tampa Bay Bucs End Season by Blacking Out Fans for 6th Time — NFL is Fan-Tastic!

The Tampa Bay Bucs are blacking out fans for the sixth time in eight games this season. Tampa Bay has now blacked out fans for 25 of its last 29 games. IT’S OBVIOUSLY WORKING!

The blackout is the 14th in the NFL this season. The Oakland Raiders have received an extension for ticket sales for this weekend’s game….

December 14, 2012   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues

NFL Blacks Out San Diego Charger Fans for Fourth Time This Season

Rather than just buying up the remaining 11,000 tickets to Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, the San Diego Chargers owner would rather black out loyal Charger fans. It is the fourth time in seven games that Southern California will be unable to watch the Chargers. The Chargers tried to use Groupon to move the final 13,000 tickets but wound up selling only a couple thousand more. Of course, the Groupon deal wasn’t really all that fantastic: a regular ticket cost $76 v. $68 for the same seat plus $20 in concessions. Rather than using gimmicks, the Chargers could have just simply lowered ticket prices. But no, NFL owners continue to unethically and counterproductively black out loyal fans, some of whom are physically unable to go.

The Charger blackout marks the 13th in the NFL this season.

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