WASHINGTON—Radio broadcaster iHeartCommunications will pay a $1 million civil penalty to resolve an FCC investigation into misuse of EAS tones.
iHeart’s WSIX-FM in Nashville aired a false emergency alert during the broadcast of the nationally syndicated program, “The Bobby Bones Show,” back in October 2014. Airing real EAS tones for anything other than an emergency is prohibited because the commission doesn’t want the public to hear the tones so often they ignore them.
“The public counts on EAS tones to alert them to real emergencies,” stated Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “Misuse of the emergency alert system jeopardizes the nation’s public safety, falsely alarms the public, and undermines confidence in the emergency alert system.”
When discussing an EAS test that aired during the 2014 World Series, show host Bobby Bones aired real EAS tones from a recording of the 2011 national EAS test. The tones were transmitted to more than 70 affiliates; some of the stations re-transmitted the tones, setting off a multi-state cascade of false EAS alerts on radios and televisions in multiple states, according to the commission.
As part of its settlement with the agency, iHeart admitted wrongdoing. In addition to the fine, the broadcaster also agreed to implement a three-year compliance and reporting plan.
iHeart must also remove or delete all simulated or actual EAS tones from the company’s audio production libraries.
This case makes five total actions the Enforcement Bureau has taken since December 2014 for misuse of EAS tones, totaling nearly $2.5 million. All involved broadcasters or cable operators. Iheart joins Viacom/ESPN, Univision, Pathfinder and SM Radio on that list.