FCC officials at the NAB Show spent time warning broadcasters about its ban against using real or simulated EAS tones in ads or other programming, with the exception of a test or actual emergency.
The idea is that the feds don’t want the public to become so used to hearing the tones that citizens don’t pay attention to them when there’s an emergency.
In 2012 FEMA and the wireless industry deployed Wireless Emergency Alerts on mobile devices like smartphones, and the WEA signals sound just like EAS tones.
But the public has been confused by the alerts and, in some cases, asked their wireless carriers how to disable the alerts. So FEMA and the wireless carriers have had an ongoing public education campaign and the FCC had granted FEMA a one-year waiver to allow the judicious use of the tones.
While FEMA and the FCC believe the PSAs have been successful, “negative media coverage” and some persistent requests from the public about turning off the alerts have led the feds to believe the campaign is still needed, according to the decision signed by FCC Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau Chief David Simpson.
Hence, now the FCC has granted FEMA an 18-month waiver extension to use the WEA tones, provided the way they are used does not mislead the public into thinking a real alert is being transmitted. Unless it was extended, the current waiver would have expired May 31.