EAS Test Tones Air in ‘Today Show’ Coverage

MULTIPLE CITIES: NBC may have violated federal rules with story about today’s test of the Emergency Alert System. The network ran the piece along with the audio tones that trigger the system on the “Today Show” about an hour before the actual test was scheduled to take place. The Federal Communications Commission issued a reminder yesterday that doing so was prohibited.

“No person may transmit or cause to transmit the EAS codes or attention signal, or a recording or simulation thereof, in any circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or authorized test of the EAS,” the commission said. “Any rebroadcast of the EAS tones and attention signal not only would violate FCC rules, but also pose a public danger because rebroadcast of these tones could trigger a false alert from EAS equipment that picks up such a rebroadcast.”

News of the “Today Show” piece quickly showed up in the Society of Broadcast Engineers’ EAS email bulletin. One said that a national satellite newsgathering service had fed a package to affiliates yesterday with the tones.

The test occurred at roughly 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, with KCRW-FM slightly ahead of KNBC-TV. Both broadcasts resumed within seconds of the end of the tests.
~ Deborah D. McAdams