‘Conan’ Catches FCC’s Ire for Use of Emergency Alert Sounds

Conan O'Brien David Letterman

Commission also probes alleged misuse of sounds in ad on Kentucky station

The FCC isn’t laughing at TBS’ “Conan.” The commission is issuing a $25,000 fine against Turner Broadcasting for using emergency alert sounds in a promotion for the show.

The promotion “used the emergency weather tones to gain attention for a commercial regarding Jack Black being on the show for April 26, 2012,” FCC said.

A rep for Turner declined comment on the scolding from the FCC.

According to the FCC, TBS explained that the promo spot was produced in “such a tight timeframe” that it was not submitted to standards and practices for review. The FCC said that Turner vowed that all “similar promotions” for “Conan” will be reviewed.

The FCC also said that its enforcement bureau is investigating an ad from TV station WNKY in Bowling Green, Ky., for misuse of the signal in an ad for the Fan Wear and More Store. The licensee for the station, MMK License LLC, has agreed to pay a $39,000 “voluntary contribution” to the FCC and initiate a compliance plan, along with a public education campaign.

“Today’s enforcement action sends a strong message: the FCC will not tolerate misuse of its Emergency Alert System,” said Robert Ratcliffe, acting chief of the enforcement bureau. He added, “This activity not only undermines the very purpose of a unique set of emergency alert sounds, but it is a clear violation of the law.”

The FCC said that the promotion did not include any actual portion of the emergency alert sound, but it did include a prerecorded “sound burst” followed by a “bars and tone” sound that were similar enough to raise viewer complaint. The agency cited a law that bars such simulations, with the intent of preventing any kind of “cry wolf” scenario.


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  1. John Miller says:

    It does seem kind of lazy by his production staff. I would definitely think they would have disks of stock footage and animations they could have gotten a fake “alert” off of.

  2. Lou Faugerburg says:

    The FCC has way too much power. Free speech.

  3. Really? A year and a half later?

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