FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has proposed ending the agency's nearly 40-year-old sports blackout rule, saying that changes in the marketplace have "raised questions" about whether they are still in the public interest.

Clyburn said that she circulated her proposal to other commissioners about eliminating the rules. Those rules vary widely according to the various professional sports leagues.

For the NFL, the blackout rule prevents local TV station owners from carrying home games for NFL teams unless all tickets to the game were sold out, under the rationale that the prospect of fans being able to watch the game on TV would dampen ticket sales. For Major League Baseball and the NHL, the focus is on protecting local stations with home-team rights, resulting in market-specific blackouts at times for national outlets such as ESPN and Fox.

"Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games. Elimination of our sports blackout rules will not prevent sports leagues, broadcasters and cable and satellite providers from privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events."

In fact, the FCC says that in the majority of the cases, blackouts are a result of such agreements.

The blackout rules have been a bane to hometown fans of sporting events, some of whom would trek to other market areas just to gain reception to key games.

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