FCC Issues Fines for Misuse of Emergency Alert Tones by TV, Radio Outlets

More than $600,000 in combined civil penalties were levied against stations.
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WASHINGTON—Settlements have been reached between the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and a TV broadcaster, cable networks and a radio broadcaster for misusing the Emergency Alert Systems and Wireless Emergency Alert tones. Combined fines of $600,000 in civil penalties were issued as a result of misuse by ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Discovery’s “Lone Star Law” and Meruelo Radio Holdings’ KDAY and KDEY-FM morning radio shows.

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ABC agreed to pay a $395,000 civil penalty for an Oct. 2018 episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” where it used a simulated WEA tone three times during a sketch. AMC paid $104,000 for an episode of “The Walking Dead” that aired in February 2019 and used the EAS tone twice. Discovery paid $68,000 for an episode of “Lone Star Law” that included an actual WEA tone that was captured while filming during Hurricane Harvey. Meruelo Radio Holdings paid $67,000 for a promotion of its two morning shows that included a simulation of EAS tones. All outlets admitted their errors and agreed to a compliance plan.

In addition to these finds, the Enforcement Bureau has released an Enforcement advisory to reiterate the existing law that speaks to the misuse of EAS tones and how it can be a public safety concern.

“We remain concerned about the misuse of the EAS codes and EAS and WEA Attention Signals, or simultaneous thereof, to capture audience attention during advertisements; dramatic, entertainment and educational programs; and at any other time that there is no genuine alert, authorized test or authorized PSA about the EAS or WEA that is accompanied by an appropriate disclaimer,” the advisory reads.