Group asks FCC to eliminate NFL blackouts

A nonprofit organization known as SportsFans.org has asked the FCC to put an end to blackouts of sports broadcasts, including NFL games.

The group asks the FCC to revise or cease retransmission disputes, the kind of thing that led to seven regular-season home games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not being shown on television in the local market last season.

“Sports fans have become a political football in retransmission consent disputes,” the filing said. “In the recurring smack-down negotiations between big broadcasters and big pay-TV companies, games are pulled right before the action starts, leaving fans in the cold. Fans who are vital to the success of sports and who have contributed through multiple public and private expenditures are treated like fumbled pigskins.”

Also cited in the filing was the dispute between Fox and Cablevision that led to many in the New York City area missing the first two games of the 2010 World Series.

“Take-downs of sports programming during retransmission consent disputes needlessly punish sports fans,” the filing said. “The Commission can and should do something. It has ample authority to take a number of actions. American sports fans would cheer for a referee that puts them back in the game.”

SportsFans.org has asked the FCC to eliminate sports blackout rules, network non-duplication rules and syndicated exclusivity rules. It’s difficult to say if the group will gain any traction in its goal to ensure fans don’t miss televised action, but in some NFL markets it would make many fans happy.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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