FCC

FCC Won't Reduce Fines on Viacom, ESPN Over EAS Misuse

Companies Had Sought Reduction in Penalties 1/20/2015 2:00 PM Eastern

The FCC has refused to reduce the fines it proposed against Viacom and ESPN for misuse of the emergency alert system (https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-331489A1.pdf ).

 

The penalties stem from an ad the three aired repeatedly for the film Olympus Has Fallen that included Emergency Alerts System warning tones that are only supposed to be used in a real emergency.

 

All three companies (NBCU was cited, too) initially contested their liability for airing the tones in the movie trailer, but the FCC cited a spike in consumer complaints about simulated or actual EAS tones and said that it prohibited their use in other than emergency situations, in part for the "cry wolf" element of desensitizing viewers to the importance of real tones.

 

It also pointed out that the infractions occurred over multiple days on multiple networks.

 

"Seven Viacom-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 108 times over five days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $1,120,000," said the Media Bureau. "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, NBCU and ESPN had all been cited back in March by the FCC for the airings (http://www.multichannel.com/news/marketing/fcc-proposes-19-million-eas-f...), which they conceded included real Emergency Alert Warning (EAS) tones--a no-no per FCC rules. The FCC proposed the fines, but the companies had a chance to rebut them.

 

NBCU paid its $530,000 fine, while Viacom ($1,120,000) and ESPN ($280,000) had asked for reductions in their fines, but the FCC has denied them.

 

“The public relies on this system to prepare them for real emergencies,” said Travis LeBlanc, the FCC's chief of the FCC’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.”

 

 

 

 

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