The battle over the sports blackout rule that primarily affects the NFL has another face weighing in – FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. Pai is in favor of striking down the rule, clearly making this an “NFL vs FCC” issue as opposed to an “NFL vs angry fans” issue.
Some of the comments by Pai fall into the camp of “well, duh” but considering the faulty, inflammatory logic that the NFL is bringing to the party, it’s refreshing to see someone in a position of power state what we all know – that the rule is bogus in the year 2014, and shouldn’t exist.
The time has come for the FCC to repeal its sports blackout rule.
Why do I say that? After carefully reviewing all of the arguments, I don’t believe the government should intervene in the marketplace and help sports leagues enforce their blackout policies. Our job is to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners.
During my time at the FCC, I have consistently stressed the need to get rid of unnecessary regulations—of rules that have outlived whatever usefulness they once might have had, of rules that keep hard-working American consumers out of the end zone. The sports blackout rule is just such a rule. The FCC shouldn’t get involved in handing out special favors or picking winners and losers. And in my view, there is no reason for the FCC to be involved in the sports blackout business.
I realize that eliminating the rule is no silver bullet. Even without the FCC’s blessing, there could still be dark screens any given Sunday. So I can’t promise Buffalo residents that they’ll be able to watch all Bills games on television if we get rid of the rule. But that’s no excuse for keeping it on the books.
Right now, it’s looking more and more like that the lobbying efforts of Roger Goodell and his cabal will fall short. And that’s a good thing – they’ve already wrung every last penny out of their fanbase, and the well is just about tapped out now. Killing the blackout rule is a fan-friendly move that is much-needed in the year 2014. Why should fans get screwed because they prefer to watch games in the comfort of their own home instead of paying (at minimum) $25 for parking, $50 for a ticket, and who knows how much on concessions? It’s cheaper and more convenient to watch games at home, and the quality of the experience is arguably better when you consider the advances of technology.
But hey, the NFL and its teams can’t completely gouge their fans if they’re sitting at home. They need the blackout sword to hold over their heads. And that’s the only reason that the NFL is in favor of keeping their blackouts alive.