FCC Proposes $1.9M in Penalties for EAS Violations by Viacom/NBCU/ESPN
Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500445 12th Street, S.W.
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:
March 3, 2014
Mark Wigfield, 202-418-0253
FCC PROPOSES OVER $1.9 MILLION IN PENALTIES AGAINST VIACOM, ESPN, AND
NBCUNIVERSAL FOR MISUSE OF EMERGENCY ALERT WARNINGS
Penalties Represent the Largest Yet Proposed in Ongoing Investigations of Misuse of the Emergency
Alert System Warning Sounds
Washington, D.C. – The Federal Communications Commission today proposed fines against Viacom,
ESPN, and NBCUniversal for repeatedly transmitting an advertisement that misuses the warning sounds
of the nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS).
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, like
tornado warnings, targeted to specific areas.
The FCC has long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones in
circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system. This case is the latest in a
series of FCC enforcement actions to address a recent spike in consumer complaints.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau initiated a wide-ranging investigation in response to consumer
complaints about a commercial being transmitted on multiple cable networks. The complaints described
an advertisement promoting the release of the film “Olympus has Fallen.” In response to the Bureau’s
Letters of Inquiry, the Companies each admitted that the commercial appeared multiple times on multiple
national and regional networks under their control, and that it used actual EAS codes and the Attention
Signal to advertise the film.
As a result of the investigation, the FCC has issued an omnibus Notice of Apparent Liability for a total of
$1,930,000 to the Companies. Seven Viacom-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of
108 times over five days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $1,120,000. Three ESPN-owned networks
transmitted the advertisement a total of 13 times over four days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of
$280,000. Finally, seven NBCUniversal-owned cable networks transmitted the advertisement a total of
38 times over a span of six days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $530,000.
Viacom Inc., NBCUniversal Media Inc., and ESPN Inc. Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture: