FCC Drops The Hammer On Cable Networks For Movie Spot With Fake EAS Tones
March 3, 2014 at 4:07 PM (PT)
The FCC has proposed huge fines against VIACOM, NBCUNIVERSAL, and ESPN for airing a TV spot for the movie "OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN" that included a fake EAS tone. The proposed fine against VIACOM is $1.12 million, while NBCUNIVERSAL was hit with a $530,000 proposed fine and ESPN is on the hook for $280,000. The spot aired on VIACOM's COMEDY CENTRAL, BET, CENTRIC, MTV, MTV2, SPIKE, and VH1; three ESPN cable networks, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS; and NBCU's SYFY, USA NETWORK, and COMCAST SPORTSNET's BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA (SACRAMENTO), HOUSTON, NEW ENGLAND, and MID ATLANTIC (WASHINGTON-BALTIMORE) regional sports channels. HORIZON MEDIA bought the time and distributed the spot, one of three for the movie, to the networks.
"Misuse of EAS Tones raises serious public safety concerns. Frivolous, casual, or other uses of EAS Tones for reasons other than their defined purpose can desensitize viewers to the tones and thereby undermine the effectiveness of the system in the event of an actual emergency," the Commission wrote. Jurisdiction was asserted by reading the rule prohibiting false or fraudulent use of EAS tones to mean any person, whether or not a broadcaster, who causes the tones to be used in a false or fraudulent manner (a "cry wolf" situation, as the Commission characterized it).