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FCC considers scrapping ‘blackout rule’

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NEW YORK, NY — A rule that affects what sports games can be televised is under review by the Federal Communications Commission, the agency said Wednesday.

The so-called blackout rule was designed to prevent local team fans from staying home and watching a game on TV, instead of buying available tickets. So when a game is not sold out, television outlets cannot air that game in the home team’s market.

The FCC is reviewing its rule that applies to satellite and cable companies. A separate federal law applies to broadcast television.

The rule mostly applies to National Football League games, and has roots in the 1950s and 1960s when ticket sales were a significant portion of team revenue. But broadcast revenues now dwarf ticket sales, and the NFL has become more popular, so there are fewer games that aren’t sold out.

As a result, the blackout rule doesn’t come into play much any more.

The FCC said only 16 games were affected by the blackout rule in 2011. In the mid 1970s, as many as 59% of NFL games were blacked out, it said.

It asked the public for feedback on whether the rule is still necessary.

By Gregory Wallace

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