News

Sports Fans: Retrans Blackouts Must End

6/21/2010 3:23 PM Eastern

WASHINGTON — A group calling itself The Sports Fan
Coalition has asked the government to keep broadcasters
from pulling signals during retransmission-consent
disputes, pointing out that sports stadiums are often built
with taxpayer money.

That came in a filing last week in the Federal
Communications Commission’s retransmission-consent
review docket. The coalition includes former Bush
and Clinton administration officials, a sportswriter, an
executive from a public-advocacy group and several
thousand members, according to David Goodfriend,
one of the driving forces behind the group and a former
EchoStar Communications executive, as well as a Clinton
administration and Capitol Hill staffer.

“The record in this proceeding reveals a battle
between broadcast media conglomerates and the pay-
TV companies that distribute their programming,” the
group wrote. “The Commission needs to protect a group
of people who pay their bills and contribute to ratings
but have become collateral damage in this corporate
smackdown: sports fans.”

The best solution for fans would be for the commission
to prohibit broadcasters from pulling signals, or, as the
coalition calls the practice, “blocking access to sporting
events.”

Broadcasters have argued that removing their ability to
remove their signals from cable systems after a carriage
agreement expires would be the government prejudging
negotiations in favor of cable operators.

But Goodfriend noted that the coalition has also
weighed in against cable operators on the issue of access
to sports programming.

September