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FCC Acts To Stop Use of False Emergency Alert Sounds

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Released: November 5, 2013

NEWS
Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th Street, S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D. C. 20554

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

:

NEWS MEDIA CONTACT

:
November 5, 2013
Mark Wigfield, 202-418-0253
E-mail: mark.wigfield@fcc.gov

FCC ACTS TO STOP USE OF FALSE EMERGENCY ALERT SOUNDS

Enforcement Bureau Responds to Growing Consumer Complaints that TV and Radio


Commercials are Misusing the EAS Sounds


Washington, D.C. – The Enforcement Bureau today took action against Turner Broadcasting
System and reached agreement with Kentucky television station WNKY(DT) for apparent
misuse of the actual Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones or close simulations of those sounds.
The Bureau also issued an Enforcement Advisory to address growing concern about the misuse
of these sounds to capture audience attention during advertisements and at other times when
there is no emergency or test. The Advisory reemphasizes the wide-ranging and long-standing
bar on such abuses and the potential for sanctions in the case of violations.
“Today’s enforcement action sends a strong message: the FCC will not tolerate misuse or abuse
of the Emergency Alert System,” said Enforcement Bureau Acting Chief Robert H. Ratcliffe. “It
is inexcusable to trivialize the sounds specifically used to notify viewers of the dangers of an
incoming tornado or to alert them to be on the lookout for a kidnapped child, merely to advertise
a talk show or a clothing store. This activity not only undermines the very purpose o f a unique
set of emergency alert signals, but is a clear violation of the law,” added Mr. Ratcliffe.
The FCC has prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones
under any circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system for two
decades, but there has been a recent spike in consumer complaints about misuse of the sounds.
In response to a consumer complaint about a promotion for the Conan O’Brien Show carried on
the TBS cable network, the Enforcement Bureau initiated an investigation. Turner provided a
recording of the promotion and additional viewer complaints. Review of the recording
established that the promotion includes audio material that constitutes a simulation of the
prescribed EAS codes and Attention Signal. A $25,000 Notice of Apparent Liability has
therefore been issued to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
The Enforcement Bureau also initiated an investigation in response to a consumer complaint
about an advertisement broadcast by TV station WNKY(DT) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The
complaint alleged misuse of the EAS Attention Signal in an advertisement for “The Fan Wear &
More Store.” Station licensee, MMK License LLC, did not dispute that it broadcast a simulation
of an EAS sound within that advertisement, and cooperated with the Bureau to negotiate a

settlement. As a result of those negotiations, MMK has agreed to pay a $39,000 voluntary
contribution and to implement a robust compliance plan that will help prevent future violations
of the Commission’s EAS rules. In coordination with local public safety and emergency
responders, MMK also voluntarily initiated a public education campaign to inform its viewers
about EAS alerts.
The EAS is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television
operators, wireless cable operators, wireline video service providers, satellite digital audio radio
service providers, and direct broadcast satellite providers to make it possible for the President of
the United States to address the American public during a national emergency. Federal, state,
and local authorities may also use the EAS to deliver important emergency information, such as
Amber Alerts and weather information, such as tornado warnings, targeted to specific areas. The
FCC enforces its EAS rules to ensure that the EAS Attention Signal and tones are not used for
unauthorized purposes.
MMK License LLC Consent Decree and Order:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-13-2124A1.pdf
Turner Broadcasting Inc. Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-13-2125A1.pdf
FCC Enforcement Advisory: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-13-2123A1.pdf

-FCC-
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on the Commission’s web site www.fcc.gov.

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