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FCC chairman says they’ll vote Sept. 30 to kill blackout rule

Tom Wheeler

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on cell phones on planes. As one part of the federal government looks to remove restrictions on making phone calls from airplanes, another agency is apparently considering its own prohibition. Wheeler told members of Congress that while his agency sees no technical reason to ban calls on planes, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told him Thursday morning that the DOT will be moving forward with its own restrictions. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


The NFL is not having a very good couple of days.

In an op-ed written for USA Today, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said that the agency would vote on Sept. 30 to kill the television blackout rule which the league has fought to protect.

“With the first weekend of professional football in the books, two things should be abundantly clear,” Wheeler wrote. “The NFL is king; and the Federal Communication Commission’s sports blackout rules are obsolete and have to go.”

Blackout rules were instituted in 1975 to drive fans off their couches in front of free television and to the games with a paid ticket.

But only two games were blacked out last year, and the NFL is raking in television money hand-over-fist, so the need to government intervention seems a bit outdated.

That’s Wheeler’s stance, and he pounded the drum on behalf of fans in Green Bay, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, who nearly missed out on playoff games on TV when ticket sales lagged.

“The bottom line is the NFL no longer needs the government’s help to remain viable,” Wheeler wrote. “And we at the FCC shouldn’t be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV. It’s time to sack the sports blackout rules for good.”

The league has fought to protect the rules, as it helps protect their investments. But a time when they’re working to convince fans to come to the stadium, the stick of a television blackout might be going away.