Sports fans in several cities and regions around the country are in danger or have already been blindsided this fall by contract disputes between Fox and satellite and cable companies. Fox is threatening to take down its signal from certain carriers and thus not allow fans in cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Denver to see their games. The actions of Rupert Murdoch, CEO and Chair of News Corporation, which owns Fox, come right in the middle of the football season and postseason baseball. In fact, sports fans in 5 of the 8 cities with baseball teams in the postseason may lose their games. In addition, fans all around the country may miss Fox's Sunday football coverage and because Fox will take down its regional sports networks as well, fans will miss college football and hockey games.
Today, Sports Fans Coalition sent the following letter to Rupert Murdoch:
Dear Mr. Murdoch:
October is a fabulous month for sports fans. The professional and college football seasons are heating up, postseason baseball is in full swing and the puck drops on a new NHL season. Fox covers a number of these games through its national broadcasting network and its regional sports networks.
Unfortunately, this October, sports fans are being blindsided, unable to watch their favorite football, baseball and hockey games on television because of contract disputes between your company and satellite and cable carriers. My organization, Sports Fans Coalition, believes that this is unacceptable. We ask that you set sports programming aside and allow fans to see their favorite games.
Sports fans should not be treated like the pigskin in a clash between corporate behemoths. Sports are different from other content. Americans invest millions of dollars into sporting facilities through public financing of stadiums and selected waivers of regulations. The sports leagues benefit from federal antitrust exemptions, including one that allows them to bargain with you for broadcast television carriage of the games. And unlike other programming, sports unite all Americans. After 9/11, Fox's coverage of the 2001 MLB World Series was vitally important to our healing as a nation.
Because sports are so important to Americans, sports coverage is often used as the primary form of leverage in contract disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV companies. We ask that this October, you not engage in this practice. No doubt many of News Corporation's own shareholders and employees are sports fans and will themselves be distressed by television blackouts of their favorite teams.
On behalf of sports fans everywhere, I ask that you not allow sports fans to be reduced to a mere negotiating tool. Sports are far more important than that. They are a crucial part of the fabric of our society. Settle your commercial disputes off the field, behind closed doors, but let the games be shown.
Thanks for your consideration,
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org