The FCC won’t let the NFL be. And that may be a welcome diversion from the Ray Rice case.
In response to the declaration from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that the agency will vote on September 30 to scuttle the 39-year-old blackout rule, a league spokesman points out that nearly 20,000 fans have petitioned the FCC to uphold the rule.
That disclosure follows the August 25 filing from Lynn Swann, who has become the official spokesman (presumably not unpaid) for the effort to preserve the ability to pull the plug on local broadcasts of games that weren’t sold out.
“These letters represent a growing chorus of fans calling on the Commission to maintain the current rules, which help to keep NFL games available to every viewer on free, broadcast television,” Swann wrote to the FCC. “I sincerely hope and ask that the Commission consider the petitions of these fans — who are 15,000 strong and climbing — as you decide what is in the public interest.”
(Swann’s letter probably didn’t mention the results of the poll pasted below, which as of this posting shows nearly 13,000 fans opposed to the blackout rule.)
The logical nexus between the FCC ensuring that all games will be broadcast on free TV and NFL games generally disappearing from free TV remains unclear. PFT has invited the league to explain the dot-connecting process that starts with the blackout rule going away and ends with the NFL shifting to a pay-only model, but the league has yet to provide any information.
While I’m not quite ready to channel Adlai Stevenson, it would be nice to know how the elimination of the blackout rule results in the NFL abandoning the best way to maximize audiences — especially since the two networks supporting the retention of the blackout rule presumably would be willing to pay even more for the right to air games if, for example, FOX could televise a non-sold-out game in Tampa or CBS could broadcast in the Bay Area a Raiders game without enough tickets sold.