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Congressman Higgins urges change to NFL blackout rule

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
WBFO News file photo
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY

A federal lawmaker is urging an end to the National Football League's television blackout rule. Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on the FCC to change the rule saying it hurts markets like Buffalo.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss an issue of great importance to Western New York– the Buffalo Bills," said Congressman Brian Higgins as he appeared before his colleagues on the House Floor Wednesday.

“The blackout rule denies fans who have invested their time, consumer spending and local tax dollars in the Bills from being able to watch their team play,” said Congressman Higgins.

Higgins noted that the Buffalo Bills franchise is tied to the local economy.

“The Bills have the most dedicated fan base of any football franchise in the country. Since 1960, Bills fans have embraced and supported the team, both emotionally and financially. Today, the Buffalo Bills franchise is an integral piece of the New York State economy," said Congressman Higgins.

Higgins calls the blackout rule  harsh preventing fans from viewing their local football team.

"In Buffalo this means that in order to avoid a blackout the Bills must sell more tickets than the League average in one of the League’s smallest markets," said Higgins.  "Last year almost half of Bills’ home games were blacked out. This is unacceptable."

A stadium -- like Ralph Wilson -- must be sold out 72-hours in advance in order to broadcast a football game locally.   Higgins sent a letter to the FCC asking for elimination of the rule the he calls "unfair". 

The FCC has opened a public comment period on the blackout rule.  Last week the FCC Commissioner said  it is time to take a "fresh look" at the 36-year-old blackout rule.