WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to reconsider the Sports Blackout Rule, a 1970s-era regulation that allows sports leagues, like the NFL, to black out broadcasts of a local sports game when the game does not sell out. At the urging of Sen. Brown, the FCC will release a petition urging the agency to open the Sports Blackout Rule for public feedback, the first step in repealing the regulation.
“We are one step closer to ending the blackout rule. Today, the FCC announced that it would begin taking public comment on the blackout rule, an outdated rule which is unfair to the teams, the fans, and especially the taxpayers,” Brown said. “Although the Bengals season ended last week, I’ll keep fighting to repeal the blackout rule.”
Six of the Bengals eight home games this season were blacked out. In 2010, the NFL blacked out 26 games, up from 22 games in 2009 and 9 games in 2008.
Last month, the NFL signed a nine-year television contract extension that will boost league revenue by about 60 percent through 2022. In response to the record contract, Brown called on the National Football League (NFL) to end its failed policy. Brown also urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to reexamine the league's blackout policies and asked him to consider working Ohioans that are unable to attend games in person.
The full letter to the FCC is below.
The Honorable Julius Genachowski
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Mr. Genachowski:
This holiday weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns will play against one another in a highly anticipated rivalry game. Countless Ohioans are eagerly planning to gather with family and friends to watch this game, but will be deprived of the chance to watch the Bengals and the Browns on local television due to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) sports blackout rule. The FCC’s blackout policies permit broadcasters to black out home games that are not sold out within 72 hours of the game in local television markets. Due to this rule, only one home game has been televised in Cincinnati and Dayton this entire season, despite the fact that the Bengals play in a stadium that cost Ohio taxpayers over $450 million.
While I understand that the blackout rule was designed to help sell tickets, I believe that this rule should be reexamined. During these difficult times, families are struggling to make ends meet. The average cost of a ticket to an NFL game is nearly ten times the hourly minimum wage. As a result, attending any NFL game is simply cost prohibitive for many Ohioans. This problem will likely become worse as ticket costs increase.
Given these considerations, I urge you to allow public comment on the pending petition to end this rule. Our state’s NFL teams have long served as a source of pride for many Ohioans, and I am deeply troubled that too many Ohioans will not be able to watch and root for their teams on local television. I ask you to revisit this rule and to allow the Americans who have been prevented from watching their teams play, the opportunity to publicly comment on the sports blackout rule.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.