Why Ending FCC Blackout Rules May Be Broadcast TV's Demise

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Jan. 10 (Bloomberg Law) -- The NFL hasn't had a blackout of a playoff game since 2002, though last week was a close one.

If a game isn't sold out 72 hours before kickoff, the Federal Communication Commission's rules impose TV blackouts on the home territory. Last weekend local companies stepped up at the last minute to buy the remaining tickets, essentially gaming the system. See more +

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg Law) -- The NFL hasn't had a blackout of a playoff game since 2002, though last week was a close one.

If a game isn't sold out 72 hours before kickoff, the Federal Communication Commission's rules impose TV blackouts on the home territory. Last weekend local companies stepped up at the last minute to buy the remaining tickets, essentially gaming the system.

The FCC has had enough though. Last month the regulators proposed repealing the blackout rules. They were adopted in 1975, when selling tickets was a team's primary revenue source. But the FCC's emphasis has always been different - they want to ensure the "availability of sports telecasts to the general public." They say now that "it appears that the sports blackout rules have become obsolete."

While both the NFL and broadcasters say the blackout rules continue to be necessary.

Attorney Dan Kirkpatrick explains what might happen if the FCC's blackout rules are eliminated.

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