Congress wants more NFL football on free television

Members of the U.S. Senate have asked the NFL commissioner to make more game day broadcasts available to local fans at no cost on broadcast television.

The league said it provides free broadcasts in the home cities of competing teams. But, in a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell last week, 13 members of the Senate said the NFL is too narrowly interpreting what a home city is.

“The policy leaves behind NFL fans across the country simply because they live outside cities to which the NFL has granted franchises,” the senators wrote to Goodell.

For example, the NFL does not consider the western Pennsylvania town of Johnstown part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ home market, the letter said.

The NFL Network and several cable operators, including Comcast and Time Warner, are in a dispute over football carriage. The NFL wants the network placed on cable’s basic tier, while the cable companies want it to be a premium channel or part of a paid sports tier.

“The goal of our NFL Network games is to show [games] to a national audience,” the NFL said in a statement. “However, that goal has been undercut by several of the largest cable operators that are discriminating against our network by either refusing to carry it or placing it on a much more costly tier than the sports networks that the cable operators themselves own. These cable operators are denying their consumers fair access to this popular NFL programming.”

The NFL asked the senators for their help in resolving the issue with the cable operators.

The letter to Goodell was signed by Sens. Arlen Specter, R-PA; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both D-RI; Pete Domenici, R-NM; Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-WY.; Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent; Dick Durbin, D-IL; Patrick Leahy, D-VT; Ken Salazar, D-CO; Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent; Wayne Allard, R-CO; and John Thune, R-SD.