FCC Fines Viacom and ESPN $1.4 Million for Misuse of EAS Warning Sounds

FCC Fines Viacom and ESPN $1.4 Million for Misuse of EAS Warning Sounds
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January 20, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined Viacom and ESPN $1.4 million formisusing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) warning tones.

The FCC says that the cable networks transmitted EASwarning tones for several days in 2013 to promote the movie 'Olympus Has Fallen,' which portrayed aterrorist attack on Washington, D.C.

Broadcast or transmission of these tones outside an emergency ortest violates the FCC's laws protecting the integrity of the system.

"The public relies on this system to prepare them for real emergencies," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of theFCC's Enforcement Bureau. "Our action here sends a strong signal that use of the EAS tones for non-emergency purposes presents a danger to public safety which we will not tolerate."

The EAS is the national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television operators, andothers to provide a method for authorities to address the public during a national or local emergency. TheFCC has long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS tones in circumstances other than areal alert or an authorized test.

For more information about the FCC's EAS rules, visit http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/broadcast/eas.html.

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau investigated reports of misuse of the EAS tones in a commercialpromoting the film 'Olympus Has Fallen.' The networks admitted that the commercial contained actualEAS codes and appeared multiple times on the networks.

In March 2014, the FCC proposed a total fine of $1,930,000 against NBCUniversal, ESPN, and Viacom. NBCUniversal paid its $530,000 fine, but ESPN and Viacom objected and requested reductions. The FCCrejected their arguments and imposed fines of $1,120,000 against Viacom and $280,000 against ESPN.

The fines, which differ based on several factors including the number of channels involved and the number of transmissions on each channel, must be paid in 30 days.

The full Order can be viewed here:https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-15-2A1.pdf