FCC lifts NFL blackout rule, Higgins pushes league to follow suit

Sep 30, 2014

The NFL blackout rule has been lifted, but don't get too excited yet. The Federal Communications Commission voted today to lift the more than 40-year-old ban on broadcasting games locally that do not sell out, but the league still has to change its' policy.

Rep. Brian Higgins is one of several lawmakers pushing the league to get rid of the black out rule, noting economics have changed through the years making the rule obsolete. Higgins says the NFL makes a great deal of revenue off of merchandise sales and advertising, claiming ticket sales are just a small part of the league's income in this era.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and Congressman Brian Higgins during a recent stop in Buffalo
Credit Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO

Higgins also argues that the blackout rule hurts smaller communities like Buffalo.  Ralph Wilson Stadium is one of the largest in the league, seating 73,000 fans.  

Higgins and other lawmakers have introduced the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (Fans) Act, otherwise known as the FANS ACT, which eliminates the NFL’s antitrust exemptions effectively getting rid the blackout rule completely. 

Lawmakers plan to push the FANS Act, unless the league voluntarily ends its practice of requiring stations to blackout games that do not sell out.