Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

47 Federal Communications Law Journal 571 (1995)


The tradition of watching the Sunday afternoon football game in front of the television began in 1939. Since then, sports broadcasting has become one of the most powerful revenue-building tools for both media and sports leagues alike. Sports programming is increasingly available only through cable and pay-per-view television, which limits viewers' access to free broadcast televised sporting events. Legislators have now directed the Federal Communications Commission to study the effects of paid access to sports broadcasts, with an eye toward protecting viewers' rights to free access to sports on television.

This Note explains the impact of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 and its relation to the "siphoning effect" cable and pay-per-view have had on televised sports. The Note then analyzes the FCC's approach to sports programming, and the implications of their reports on the issue. Finally, the Author concludes that legislative or regulatory action is appropriate under FCC policy and constitutional analysis to protect viewers' access to free broadcast of sporting events, despite the viewers' inability to pay for cable or pay-per-view service.