Congressman Brian Higgins stood up to play defense for Buffalo Bills fans. In remarks on the House Floor he cited new ownership and blackout rules as threats that could take the team away from loyal, local fans.
On reports of outside interests potentially pulling the Bills out of Western New York, Higgins said, “The people of Buffalo have stood by our team and the next owner of this franchise – the BUFFALO Bills – must be one that will stand with this community for generations to come.”
Below is the full text of Congressman Higgins’ remarks:
Mr. Speaker, In my Western New York community, there is no shortage of pride for the National Football League Buffalo Bills. Taxpayers are currently investing millions into the existing stadium and the community is engaged in discussions about future ownership and potential construction of a new stadium.
Despite this, outside interests are making moves to pull the team out of Buffalo and antiquated rules turn TV screens black on game day – both threaten to take the team away from its loyal fan base.
Our legislation, the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports Act, eliminates the anti-trust exemption that gives NFL teams the ability to blackout home games that haven’t sold out and ensures that local fans will be able to watch their teams from home.
The people of Buffalo have stood by our team and the next owner of this franchise – the BUFFALO Bills – must be one that will stand with this community for generations to come.
Higgins also sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging final approval of a proposed rule calling for the repeal of sports blackouts. Higgins has been fighting the antiquated blackout rules since 2012. Last December the FCC announced plans to drop federal support for sports blackouts. Final approval of that policy is pending. The Congressman would like to see the National Football League voluntarily follow suit, but has also introduced the FANS Act to force an end to policies that allow the blackouts.
A copy of the Congressman’s letter is below:Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street, SW Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler, Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Pai, and Rosenworcel:
On December 18, 2013 the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MB Docket No. 12-3) to eliminate the FCCs 40-year old sports blackout rule. The public comment period began January 24, 2014, and the 60 day comment period closed over 120 days ago on March 25, 2014.
The FCC has received hundreds of comments from elected officials, fans, economists, professional sports leagues, broadcasters, and cable and satellite TV providers. As we approach the start of the National Football League (NFL) season I urge the Commission to move forward and hold a vote on a final order eliminating the sports blackout rules. This item is not currently on the publicly posted August Commission meeting agenda, and so I request that the Commission add the item to the agenda for the August commission meeting, or at the latest, the September meeting.
The NPRM recognizes the fact that the sports blackout rule is outdated, and is time to end this unfair and outdated policy once and for all. As the Commission noted “Changes in the sports industry in the last four decades have called into question whether the sports blackout rules remain necessary to ensure the overall availability of sports programming to the general public.”
The Commission has looked the facts and made a preliminary recommendation. Now it must act. On behalf of my constituents and sports fans across the country I ask that you commit to bringing a final order to a vote at the August commission meeting.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Member of Congress