A nonprofit group know as SportsFans.org has asked the FCC to waive the sports blackout rule, network non-duplication rules and syndicated exclusivity rules whenever a broadcast signal is taken down during a retransmission dispute so fans can still see the games.
“Sports fans have become a political football in retransmission consent disputes,” the filing said. “In the recurring smack-down negotiations between big broadcasters and big pay-TV companies, games are pulled right before the action starts, leaving fans in the cold. Fans who are vital to the success of sports and who have contributed through multiple public and private expenditures are treated like fumbled pigskins.”
In its filing Thursday, SportsFans.org pointed to several disputes, including the dispute between FOX and Cablevision that caused millions of fans in the New York City area to miss the first two games of the 2010 World Series.
“Take-downs of sports programming during retransmission consent disputes needlessly punish sports fans,” the filing said. “The Commission can and should do something. It has ample authority to take a number of actions. American sports fans would cheer for a referee that puts them back in the game.”
“The Commission has long treated sports programming as distinguishable from other types of programming, whether in the context of special rules, such as the sports blackout rule or merger conditions designed to prevent the anti-competitive hoarding of regional sports networks,” the filing said. “In this proceeding, the Commission similarly can draw the line at using sports programming as a negotiating tool.”