Television Consumer Free Act Of 2013 Aims To Stop Blackouts

Norm Hall

United States Senator John McCain looks to bring fairness to consumers on their cable bills, which includes the prevention of black outs in all sports.

Politics and sports generally never mix.

Even when they do, many people scratch their heads with a "don't you have something better to do response".

Yet Arizona Senator John McCain introduced the Television Consumer Free Act of 2013 on Thursday, aimed at eliminating the league's blackout rule, among other cable television charges that people would view as unfair. Writes Joe Flint with the Los Angeles Times:

Long a foe of how pay-TV distributors such as satellite and cable companies and programmers package and sell programming, McCain wants the industry to start selling channels on an individual or a la carte basis to consumers. That way, a customer who doesn't love sports isn't stuck footing the high bill ESPN charges.

The bill also includes provisions that eliminates the blackout rules for all sports, especially for any local team "whose stadium was funded with taxpayer dollars."

"When the venue in which these sporting events take place has been the beneficiary of taxpayer funding, it is unconscionable to deny those taxpayers who paid for it the ability to watch the games on television when they would otherwise be available," McCain said.

Ohio State representative Robert Hagen introduced House Bill No. 599 in October last year, aimed at banning "local sports teams that play in stadiums partially or fully funded with public dollars from 'blacking out' television broadcasts." The bill wasn't voted on. Before that, United State Senator Sherrod Brown, repeatedly demanded that the NFL ditch their blackout policy.

Recognizing recent attendance trends, the NFL reduced the threshold from 100 percent to 85 percent of non-premium tickets sold to define a sellout. However most teams refused to apply the change (including the Bengals), because any tickets sold above the new threshold would be split evenly between both teams -- as opposed to a 2-1 ratio normally.

Despite having gone to the postseason in two consecutive seasons, the Bengals have been forced to declare blackouts during six of 16 games dating back to 2011.

However attendance has been on the rise for Cincinnati lately. After averaging a league-low 49,251 tickets sold in 2011 (75.2 percent of capacity), the Bengals averaged 61,188 tickets in 2012 (93.4 percent).

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