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FCC unanimously nixes sports blackout rule

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to end a 39-year-old regulation preventing cable and satellite providers from airing games blacked out on local broadcast channels.

"It is the commission's job to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners," Commissioner Ajit Pai said.

The NFL had argued that the rule — which applies to all pro sports teams, but most impacts football — was necessary to keep fans in stadium seats. (The league blacks out games that do not sell out, ostensibly to keep broadcasts from giving the impression the sport is unpopular.) Yet the rule was originally imposed when the league made most of its revenue from ticket sales. So critics argued, and the FCC agreed, that the rule was outdated now that enormous TV deals have become significant moneymakers for pro leagues and teams.