View Full Version : Profootball talk to the rescue!!

10-20-2005, 06:21 PM

The NFL is sticking it to the displaced fans of the Miami Dolphins once again. Like last year, when a hurricane forced the regular-season opener between the Fins and Titans to be moved from Sunday to Saturday, fans not residing within the local television broadcast area won't get to see the game live on DirecTV. Or on CBS. Or on the NFL Network. Or on ESPN. Or on any other channel.

The carefully-worded statement on the Dolphins' official web site never comes out and says, "Sorry, folks -- we've bent you over and crammed it up your bungholes sideways."

But that's the end result: The game will be available live on television in the local markets only.

On the radio, the game will be available on Sirius Satellite Radio and through the Field Pass subscription service.

Although some believe that the decision not to broadcast the game nationally is the result of a potential violation of "federal law," the reality is that there is no federal law prohibiting this. Instead, and as we explained in detail in September 2004, Title 15, Section 1293 of the United States Code states that telecasting a pro football game from a television station within 75 miles of any Friday night or Saturday from mid-September through early December jeopardizes the league's antitrust exemption.

As we interpret the law, the antitrust exemption arises regardless of whether the game is shown nationally or locally. If, as there surely will be, high school games are played within 75 miles of any of the Florida or Kansas City-area CBS affiliates broadcasting the game, the critical language of Title 15, Section 1293 is implicated.

In fact, because the law speaks in terms of games broadcast from any "telecasting station" within 75 miles of a high school or college game, the prohibition arguably doesn't apply to television images broadcast from, you know, a satellite orbiting the planet.

Adding insult to insult is the failure of the NFL to offer any explanation for the decision. Rich Eisen mentioned the non-availability of the broadcast briefly on Thursday night's Total Access, but then shifted quickly back to a discussion of the hardships that the teams involved will experience as a result of the unexpected acceleration of the game.

C'mon, league office. Plenty of the fans are smart enough to see through this, and everyone deserves an explanation as to why the game won't be seen on live television -- especially those folks who purchased the Sunday Ticket package with the expectation that the Dolphins and Chiefs games would be available.

And since the disruption of Miami games due to hurricanes now appears to be an annual phenomenon, shouldn't the NFL be taking steps to protect its fans against being prevented from watching their favorite teams play? Those billions in broadcast rights packages flows from the fact that people want to watch the games. So whether it's by lobbying Congress for an amendment to 15 U.S.C 1293 or whether it's through putting the appropriate language in the contracts with the networks, the NFL needs to show a little more sensitivity (okay, a lot more sensitivity) to its paying customers.

10-20-2005, 06:40 PM
Nice article. I agree wholeheartedly.

10-20-2005, 06:46 PM
Don't look for Eisen or anybody else at NFL Network (or ESPN, for that matter) to criticize this. They're all corporate handpuppets and will tow the company line - which is FANS DON'T MATTER AFTER WE'VE GOT THEIR MONEY.