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

FCC Proposes $1.9 Mil Fine Against

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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  1. johntshea says:

    Our tax dollars at work, bringing us yet more governmental idiocy! How would we recognize this supposedly sacrosanct EAS signal anyway? In what way is it distinctive or effective?

    No doubt today’s FCC would have jailed Orson Welles for his famous 1930s ‘WAR OF THE WORLDS’ broadcast!

    • Bob says:

      Although I am against a lot of the FCC’s fines, I do support this one. That sound, which is very distinct (by design), is meant to cut through the noise and get your attention. It serves an important function and should not be used for any other purpose so that it maintains the integrity of the Emergency Alert System. You don’t ever want people to think that it could mean anything other than emergency information that could, ultimately, save lives. ESPECIALLY on broadcast television.

      And it’s not like it’s going to break any of these companies bank rolls.

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