J.D. Scholten. (IA Legislature photo)

Major League Baseball officials flew to Des Moines to meet with Iowa lawmakers this week to discuss a bill that would ban TV blackouts that prevent Iowans from watching six different teams in the region.

Representative J.D. Scholten, a Democrat from Sioux City who played professional baseball in six countries, co-sponsored the bill. It seeks to end Major League Baseball rules that prohibit games featuring the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers from airing on TV screens in Iowa.

“Allow us to watch the game,” Scholten told Radio Iowa. “Allow us to watch what we paid for.”

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver also met with the MLB officials. “I said: ‘Why could I watch more Chicago Cubs games in 1986 than I can today?'” Whitver said during a Radio Iowa interview. “And from their standpoint, I think they understand that it hinders their growth of the game when kids and parents and families cannot watch the product.”

Whitver called the blackouts “ridiculous” and he said the league plans to work with their network broadcast partners to fix it. “I believe there’s going to be some solutions coming regarding blackouts,” Whitver said. “I don’t think it’s an issue the legislature can fix, even if we wanted to.”

Scholten said Major League Baseball has been promising to fix this issue since 2015, so he plans to continue pressing for
passage of the bill. “Where I live in Sioux City, I’m within a mile and a half of both Nebraska and South Dakota and you go over there, across the river, and there are different blackouts,” Scholten said. “Since they decide state by state, us as Iowans we do have a right to say, ‘Hey, we are the number one state affected by this.'”

Scholten suggests the first test of whether the league is serious about broadcasting more games into Iowa may come soon. The Diamond Sports Group that’s been broadcasting Twins, Royals, Cardinals and Brewers games on TV has filed for bankruptcy. Major League Baseball has announced that if the company doesn’t pay its rights fees, the league is prepared to take over broadcasting duties.

Radio Iowa