FCC Proposes $1.93 Million in EAS Fines

The FCC has proposed a total of more than $1.9 million in fines against Viacom, ESPN and NBCUniversal for what the agency says is a “misuse” of the Emergency Alert System tones.

The agency has fined radio stations in the past for similar violations, repeatedly airing advertisements that contain the actual EAS warning tones.

Stations are only allowed to air the EAS tones during an actual alert or a test. The commission bans the practice otherwise because the agency fears by airing the tones at other times, a station could panic listeners or, the audience could become so used to hearing the tones that they ignore them as well as necessary instructions in an actual emergency.

In this case, the commission responded to complaints about a commercial being transmitted on multiple cable networks. The complaints described an ad promoting the release of the film “Olympus Has Fallen.” The FCC says in its decision that the companies admitted to the Enforcement Bureau that the commercial appeared multiple times on several national and regional networks under their control, and that the ad used actual EAS tones to advertise the film.

As a result of the investigation, the FCC has issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for a total of $1,930,000 to the companies. Seven Viacom-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 108 times over five days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $1,120,000, according to the agency. Three ESPN-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 13 times over four days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $280,000. Finally, seven NBCUniversal-owned cable networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 38 times over a span of six days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $530,000.

The companies each have 30 days to appeal or pay the fines.


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Comment List:

47CFR 11.45 states:"No person may transmit or cause to transmit the EAS codes or Attention Signal, or a recording or simulation thereof, in any circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or authorized test of the EAS..." I fail to see how that rule is so difficult to interpret. This was not the first time EAS headers were used in news or promotional material in the last year; the Commission reiterated each time that such use was non-compliant. In that light, the $1.9M NAL is appropriate and necessary as nothing else seems to be doing any good. It's like whacking someone over the head with a 2x4--Now that I have your attention---
By Brian Urban on 3/6/2014
The issue is not the pitch of the tones--it's the tones! If it sounds like "duck farts" it needs to be edited out or the spot can't run. As suggested a 1 kc tone, or maybe a European siren sound would be safer if you absolutely need the sound effect.
By Tom Taggart on 3/5/2014
In 1974 I had to pass an FCC exam to get a third class operator permit. Those sort of regulations were required knowledge before you could go to work in radio. Of course the test is not required anymore and this is just one example of the results.
By Doug Williams on 3/5/2014
They used the triple-chirp EAS (and did not add an EOM!). I'd be very leery of putting them on the air even in altered form. Prior to that, there were flashes of bars over EBS/EAS 2-tone alert. ...How far should you shift that to be safe? Better to use a single-frequency tone, 1000 or 500 Hz; it's just as out-of-the-ordinary and harkens back to the old carrier-break/1 kc tone/carrier break EBS alert that replaced Conlerad. All that said, I have had to run down into a control room *during* a newscast to tell the journalists that the EAS activation from earlier in the day they had incorporated as a sound bite could never, ever be aired again. The innocent apology was touching -- and useless, if the thing had been brought to the FCC's attention.
By Roberta X on 3/5/2014
It's illegal to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater and it's illegal to broadcast EAS tones when there is no official alert or test. That's the complete legal AND common sense basis of this "minor" lapse of judgment ... uh-duh! As for tampering with a spot from an ad agency, it's either that or refuse to run it. It's your license, not theirs.
By JF on 3/5/2014
All us Old Timers know the ramifications of tampering with a spot from an Ad Agency.
By SM on 3/5/2014
Is it really that hard to use Audobe Audition to change the pitch of the tones so much so that they're not going to activate EAS or even legacy EBS hardware? Two minutes in the production room could have saved almost $2million in fines. Same goes for the news stories that retransmitted EAS tones unaltered to report on the 'zombie alerts'. Isn't there any oldtimers with common sense at broadcast stations anymore?
By Al Lert on 3/5/2014

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