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FCC Fines Univision $20,000 for Misuse of EAS Tones

Case involved WXNY but settlement applies to all Univision radio stations

The FCC and Univision have reached an agreement that ends an investigation into whether one of its radio stations misused the Emergency Alert System tones.

The case began when the Enforcement Bureau received a complaint from a New Jersey resident who heard EAS tones during a Spanish-language comedy sketch broadcast over New York City-area station WXNY(FM), last January.

The investigation revealed that several of WXNY’s disc jockeys, speaking in a mix of Spanish and English, played the tones during a comedy routine and repeatedly broadcast the tones, even after they acknowledged to the listening public that doing so was illegal, according to the agency.

“The American public relies on the emergency alert system to inform them of real emergencies,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “Misuse of the Emergency Alert System desensitizes the public to the importance of the tones and poses a serious danger to the nation’s public safety, whether those tones are transmitted with programming that is in English, Spanish or any other language.”

The settlement with Univision requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $20,000 and implement a three-year compliance and reporting plan for WXNY. The reporting and compliance plan applies to all 68 of Univision radio owned and operated stations.

The settlement comes as the agency last week fined Viacom and ESPN a total of $1.4 million and ESPN for airing a movie promo that used real EAS tones.