The blackout rule had remained unchanged for nearly 40 years until 2012, when the NFL voluntarily loosened the rule, lifting the ban if a team could sell at least 85 percent of its seats.
The 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the NFL in blackouts again, with six of their eight regular season home games not aired on local television.
Now Sen. John McCain is calling for a federal law to get rid of the blackouts. According to the Los Angeles Times:
McCain's bill also calls for elimination of the sports blackout rule which prohibits a local TV station from showing an NFL game that is going on in its market if the event is not sold out. McCain wants to gut that rule for any team whose stadium was funded with taxpayer dollars.
The blackout is not the paramount measure in McCain's legislation, which is actually about allowing satellite and cable companies to start selling channels on an individual or "a la carte" basis to consumers. McCain says his Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 will "help shift the landscape to benefit television consumers."
For years McCain has blasted the cable companies for charging customers for channels that they never watch. It's called bundling, and the Arizona Senator said on Thursday it's time for content providers to stop charging that way.
“The video industry, principally cable companies and satellite companies and the programmers that sell channels, like NBC and Disney-ABC, continue to give consumers two options when buying TV programming: First, to purchase a package of channels whether you watch them all or not; or, second, not purchase any cable programming at all," McCain said.
The bill would target teams that received government subsidies for the original construction of their stadium, which would certainly qualify the Bucs, who were able to build RayJay thanks to the 1996 Community Investment Tax, an incredible windfall for owner Malcolm Glazier family.
"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.
For all the criticism about the blackout rule, it should be noted that before Congress intervened in 1973, no NFL home games were broadcast in a local market, regardless of whether the game was sold out or not.