Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

FCC Issues Fines For Misuse of Emergency Alert Tones

The FCC has fined three different networks for misusing the emergency alert tones in conjunction with broadcast. It hit ABC with a $395,000 penalty for use of the tones on the Jimmy Kimmel show during an October 2018 comedy sketch, the AMC network with a $104,000 fine for broadcast of the alert on an episode of "The Walking Dead" during an episode earlier this year, and the Discovery Network for a $68,000 fine for broadcasting an episode of "Lone Star Law," during which viewers could hear an actual alert. 

The FCC permits broadcast of the alert only during actual emergencies. It tests the system periodically. On occasion, tv and radio stations broadcast alerts even though no emergency alert then exists, and the FCC investigates such usage. In 2014, for example, use of the alert tones in a commercial for the film "Olympus Has Fallen" drew fines of nearly $2 million. Similarly, the FCC fined a Jacksonville, Florida, NBC affiliate $55,000 for airing a commercial for the Jacksonville Jaguars football team that included the tones.

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