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Senators Press FCC to Move On Sports Blackout Issue

Petition to change decades-old rule was filed 18 months ago

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Wednesday it's time for the Federal Communications Commission to take action on an 18-month-old petition to lift the sports blackout rule.

For sports fans, few things are more frustrating than the decades-old rule that prohibits cable and satellite services from airing an NFL game that's been blacked out on the local TV station because the game didn't sell out in the stadium.

Following heavy lobbying by the Sports Fan Coalition (a group of cable providers and public interest groups), the FCC opened up a proceeding in January 2012 asking for comment on what the agency should do about the rule, but it stopped short of opening up a rulemaking.

In their letter to acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, the Senators said it was high time the FCC took the next step on an issue that would serve the public interest.

"Commenters have put forth a wide range of proposals, from maintaining the sports blackout rule in its current form, to establishing a sunset and renewal process, to eliminating the rule altogether," the Senators wrote, adding that the commission has "ample authority" to act without Congress. 

The NFL and other sports leagues oppose the lifting the rules because it helps the teams fill seats for home games.

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