Last week, the acting commissioner of the FCC, Mignon Clyburn, circulated a proposal to do away with the antiquated 40-year-old sports blackout rules, which allow the NFL to blackout television coverage in a team’s home market if the game is not sold out within 72 hours of kickoff.
This is what she said: “Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games."
"Elimination of our sports blackout rules will not prevent the sports leagues, broadcasters, and cable and satellite providers from privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events."
Blackouts of games are not limited to the NFL. By the FCC agreeing to take a serious look at banning sports blackout on TV it is the fans that have scored a winning touchdown, hat trick and grand-slam homerun.
It is clear that fans who are the foundation upon which sports has been built and sustained for too long have been treated with contempt by those who feed off them.
Whether it be the commissioner who runs the league, the owners of the teams, or the players who takes the field, there is little sympathy in hard economic times by fans who cannot afford tickets to a game but could watch it on their free broadcast TV channels or pay cable channels.
Howard Bryant of ESPN said it best in his article entitled, "Will NFL, Players Realize Fan's Power?"
He said the following with regard to the threatened football player strike in 2011. The principle is the same for blacked out TV coverage:
"The faster the owners and players realize the world can function perfectly well without a National Football League, the faster the two sides will realize just how good life is for both.
"The faster each regains respect for the people who buy the tickets, buy the jerseys and create the coveted ratings, the faster this labor strife will be over — and forgotten. After all, by being willing to spend money on football religiously, you the fans are the ones who give the generally unmarketable skill of throwing a football 60 yards on a line any value at all."
Fans need to become more of a "player" in sports that are played for their benefit. Does anyone believe that sports would be played or profitable without the fan?
Owners and players have lawyers, lobbyists, publicists, public relations experts, etc. What does the sports fan have? Well, up until recently they had no one on their side other than some outspoken sports media from time to time.
Sports fans now have a not-for-profit advocacy group to fight in their behalf. Sportsfans.org is a bipartisan 501(c) 4 corporation dedicated to fighting for sports fans to give them a voice in the boardroom, in the halls of government, in the media and in sports arenas and stadiums. I am proud to be on the board of SFC.
We played a big part in working with the FCC and Congress in shining the light on the inequity and unfairness of the sports blackout rule.
It is about time that sports fans to be respected, feared and revered by owners, players, media, and government officials.
Fans have been the missing link in sports business decision-making. They should have a seat at the table and their opinions and input should be integral to decisions that are made that affect the sports they enjoy and support financially and spiritually.
Fans are not third party beneficiaries of sports they are the prime beneficiaries of sports and as such must be treated with the respect that is due them.
It is incumbent upon fans to be as organized and involved as the owners, leagues, and players are. Fans must act like equals before they will be treated as such.
The recent actions by the FCC will go along way to providing fans with an equal playing field.
If you agree that sports leagues should no longer be allowed to blackout local games, call your congressman and U.S. senator as well as the FCC. The power is with the fans now.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
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