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Sen. Blumenthal resumes crusade against sports blackouts

Connecticut Democrat wants to end local blackouts of home NFL games

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is again proposing a bill to end sports blackouts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal is again proposing a bill to end sports blackouts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Democratic senator is renewing his crusade to eliminate sports blackouts.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal wants sports leagues to make live programming available through alternate means when cable distributors and satellite operators get into contract disputes with broadcasters that can lead to events being pulled off the air.

“We’re blowing the whistle on these anti-consumer tactics and putting more games in front of the fans that deserve to see their favorite team play,” the Connecticut Democrat said in a statement. “The FANS Act would ensure fans have rightful access to the live games of their favorite teams, regardless of where they live.”

Blumenthal, who serves on both the Judiciary and Commerce panels, is not at all new to the issue. He previously introduced legislation on the same topic and sent letters to the Federal Communications Commission with the late GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The latest bill would require the elimination of an NFL policy that provides for blackouts of home games in the local markets of teams when their stadiums are not filled. Senators lauded a 2014 FCC vote supporting ending the blackouts, but had warned at the time they would keep watch. McCain warned at the time that Congress would take action if the NFL did not.

The Blumenthal bill also would require home games to be streamed online when they are otherwise unavailable through traditional television. The leagues would be able to charge fees for the service.

“Fans should not have to drive to a nearby town to watch their home team play,” Blumenthal’s office said in summarizing that part of the legislation.

“While some leagues have volunteered to temporarily lift their blackout policies in the past, fans continue to face blackouts on a regular basis,” the senator said. “This bill is a comprehensive approach that addresses blackouts in whatever form they take.”

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