Pai calls for end to NFL's cable, satellite blackout rules

Sports fans have an ally in FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who is taking on the powerful National Football League for them.

Ajit Pai

Pai (Source: FCC)

Pai, speaking at a news conference in Buffalo, called NFL blackout rules "outdated" and said he'd like his fellow commissioners to do something about it.

"Right now the FCC is officially on the side of blackouts. We should be on the side of fans," Pai said, according to multiple reports. "The FCC shouldn't get involved in handing out special favors or picking winners and losers. And in my view, there is no reason for the FCC to be involved in the sports blackout business."

Pai is the first FCC commissioner to stick his neck out and oppose the blackout rules that the FCC instituted in 1975. Those rules stated that the home team had to sell out its stadium 72 hours before game time or the contest would be blacked out in their market by cable and satellite providers.

Pai said he wants FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to put the matter to a vote which is not something Wheeler has indicated he'll do.

The NFL, of course, is a conservative organization, so it's unlikely to touch something that it doesn't think is broken, noting that the rules protect arrangements the league has with network broadcasters.

"We are 99 percent sold out (nationally) so it has very little impact on our business," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently. "But it could have an impact on the overall business model for free television. We think that's devastating to our consumers and consumers in general."

Pai, who has met with NFL bosses, was unimpressed by their arguments.

"In my own view, their arguments don't persuade me," he said.

For more:
- NY Daily News has this story
- SFGate has this story
- the AP has this story (via USA Today)

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