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FCC Proposes $1.9 Mil Fine Against Viacom, NBCU and ESPN for Emergency Alert Spot

The FCC has proposed levying $1.93 million in fines against Viacom, NBCUniversal and ESPN for airing a commercial for the 2013 movie “Olympus Has Fallen” that used the distinctive warning tone of the federal Emergency Alert System.

In announcing the proposed fine, the FCC noted that it has “long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones in circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system.” The goal is to protect the effectiveness of the alert in the event of a natural disaster or other dangerous situation.

By the FCC’s math, seven Viacom nets carried the spot 108 times in a five-day period early last year (the movie was released in March 2013), which adds up to a proposed fine of $1.12 million. Three ESPN outlets ran it 13 times over four days ($280,000), while NBCU outlets carried it 38 times over six days ($530,000).

The FCC’s notice of the proposed fine triggers a public comment period on the sanction.

The FCC last November issued a $25,000 penalty against TBS for using the Emergency Alert System sound in a promo for Conan O’Brien’s latenight talkshow.

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