WASHINGTON—The FCC is serious about its rule that bans the use of real or simulated EAS tones on the air.
So much so the agency proposed a $200,000 fine against Turner Broadcasting System. The commission says in its decision that Turner aired EAS tones a total of 14 times over a six-day period last January.
The agency received two complaints in January 2013 alleging that Turner transmitted an ad that included a simulation of the EAS attention signal on its Cartoon Network at 10 p.m. on Jan. 18. The complaint alleges the tones in a Best Buy commercial “is so identical in pitch, duration and frequency to the official emergency broadcast sound that it is indistinguishable from the real thing.” The FCC says the second complaint alleges Turner aired the tones in a commercial for a rap artist.
As it turns out, there was just one ad under scrutiny; Sony Music Group created the spot to promote a rap artist’s new album at Best Buy, according to Turner.
Turner admitted airing the ads, but doesn’t believe the spot contained any portion of actual embedded EAS data; however the cable company does admit it couldn’t determine the source of the “sound effect” used in the spot.
The FCC responds that a “simulation” need not be an exact copy or a recording of the EAS tones and that Turner still reviewed the ad and approved it for air. Because the cable firm transmits two feeds of the same programming, one for each coast, the spot actually aired 14 times last January, according to the commission.
Bottom line — a listener could mistake the simulated EAS tones for the real thing, says the commission. The proposed high fine is justified, says the FCC, because the ad could have reached a potential 98 million viewers/listeners and because in May, 2012, the agency received complaints that Turner-owned TBS allegedly aired simulations of the EAS tones on an episode of “Conan.” At the time, Turner told the commission the company had changed internal review practices.
Turner’s “degree of culpability,” its ability to pay, and “the serious public safety implications of the violations” all factored into the FCC’s decision to levy a $200,000 penalty, the commission said.
Turner has 30 days to appeal or pay the penalty.
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