At least five United States Representatives wrote a cooperative letter for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently, according to Sports Fans Coalition, asking that the league end its blackout policy. Brian Higgins (D-NY), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Kathleen Hochul (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) wrote (letter can be viewed here):
"Given the significant changes that have occurred since the adoption of these regulations, including the commitment of substantial tax dollars to the construction and renovation of stadium and the vast diversification and growth of the Leagues’ revenue sources, we believe it is time for the NFL to re-consider and end its blackout policy."
The league continues facing increasing pressure recently with their blackout policies, in which local markets are unable to watch games within a 75-mile radius from where the game is played. During a season in which the Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs, they failed to sellout six regular season games. In late December United States Senator Sherrod Brown said that the league's blackout policy was "unnecessary", faulting the NFL (and indirectly the Bengals) for generating so much profit at the expense of taxpayers who are unable to attend games due to their respective reasons, most of which are financial. However Brown's position was primarily based with his constituents in Ohio.
"The NFL is poised to earn record profits while the Cincinnati taxpayers who built the stadium will be watching reruns rather than touchdown runs," Brown said.
Several weeks later the FCC agreed to reconsider the league's blackout policy. Brian Frederick, Executive Director for the Sports Fans Coalition, wrote a commentary at Cincy Jungle about the league's blackout policy and the steps they've helped engineer to give it broader attention, even threatening the league with their antitrust exemption.
The media landscape has certainly changed drastically, even if sports broadcasting hasn’t. It’s time to reconsider how the leagues use the media, especially considering we grant them an antitrust exemption to negotiate broadcast contracts.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offered a comment regarding the blackout policy during Friday's state of the league press conference on Friday.
"We want our stadiums full and we want to remain on free television. It has to be balanced with driving people to your stadiums. The policy has served us well over the past four decades and it is a balanced approach. We will continue to go through the FCC process if they continue."
First point. The games aren't all free on television. Monday Night Football requires cable and ESPN. Thursday night football isn't available to those without the NFL Network and even if it were, it's still not free. Second point. The stadiums being full has less to do with the blackout policy and more to do with the ticket prices that's largely failed to react with an extended depreciation within the economy.