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Don’t Mess With Faux EAS

Misuse of EAS tones in commercials has broadcasters jumpy right now.

Misuse of EAS tones in commercials has broadcasters jumpy right now.

Just last week the FCC issued a big fine regarding the misuse of EAS audio in commercials. Then reports of a problematic spot caused Sharon Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, to send an email to her members on Friday evening, one that also landed in our in-box at Radio World: “The NAB has alerted us that there is a new radio commercial produced for Kingsford Charcoal that violates the FCC’s guidelines for Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones. …If you have received this spot, make sure it does not contain the EAS tones.”

Separately, the law firm of Fletcher Heald & Hildreth noted a report by NTS MediaOnline Today, apparently about the same spot, that the Southern California Broadcasters Association had advised its own members to be on the lookout. As the law firm writes on its blog: “Ordinarily, we might leave this kind of heads-up to others. But in view of the FCC’s recent aggressive enforcement of the prohibition against transmitting EAS tones in non-emergency situations … we figure it makes sense to pass this one along.”

The context probably makes a big difference here. Just last week the commission proposed a total of more than $1.9 million in fines against Viacom, ESPN and NBCUniversal for what it called misuse of the Emergency Alert System tones.

But the FCC has always been serious about the alerting system. Thus the cue from all parties: Don’t mess around with faux EAS. Station managers, engineers and production people, take note, and if the sales team lobbies you to run a spot with anything that sounds like emergency alert tones or duck farts, show them this story.