Fans Fight Blackout Rules

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM EDT

(Buffalo, NY) The Federal Communications Commission is now accepting comments from the public as to whether there needs to be a change to sports blackout rules.

Currently, if a sporting event is blacked out on free TV, is cannot be broadcast locally on cable and satellite systems.

In November, several groups representing sports fans petitioned the FCC to eliminate the 36-year old blackout rule.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has said that it is "appropriate for us to re-examine the rule in light of marketplace changes."

The FCC will continue to collect comments until February 13th, after which only responses will be accepted.

Sport Fans Coalition was one of the groups that petitioned the FCC.

"Owners have their billions, players have their unions, sports fans really don't have anyone to advocate for them . . . and hopefully that day has changed, " says Matt Sabuda, chairperson for Sport Fans Coalition - Buffalo Group.

To make it easier for fans to submit comments to the FCC, the group has created a website:

The blackout rules primarily affect the NFL and their broadcasts.

The professional football league sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

The NFL is the only sports league that broadcasts all of its regular-season and playoff games on free television. Only six percent of games were blacked out league-wide in 2011. That compares to 10 percent of games blacked out in the 2000s, 31 percent in the 1990s, 40 percent in the 1980s and 50 percent in the 1970s. The policy is very important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of NFL clubs to sell tickets; keeping our games attractive as television programming with large crowds; and ensuring that we can continue to keep our games on free TV.

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