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.