In the "what were they thinking" category, the Society of Broadcast Engineers reports that there is a commercial for the new Skyline movie that contains an EAS tone – that can actually set off EAS receivers. If a station is operating without an attendant, with the EAS on automatic, a receiving station could be automatically start retransmitting its primary station if it hears the tone in the ad – causing the receiving stations to start running the commercial thinking that it is an EAS alert, and it might continue running that commercial and subsequent programming from the primary station for several minutes as there was no termination code in the commercial. This is not the first time in recent months that this issue has arisen – only a few months ago an ad by BP for its ARCO subsidiary also contained alert tones. While this may be a mistake by commercial advertisers aiming for reality in their some marketers, as opposed to a cynical marketing ploy to take over stations that received the signal from the primary station on which the ad was run, this type of ad could be a violation of the FCC’s rules – so broadcasters should be vigilant in policing these ads.
Section 11.45 of the Commission’s Rules states:
No person may transmit or cause to transmit the EAS codes or Attention Signal, or a recording or simulation thereof, in any circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or authorized test of the EAS. Broadcast station licensees should also refer to § 73.1217 of this chapter.
While this rule also refers broadcasters to Section 73.1217, the prohibition on broadcast hoaxes that might cause substantial harm, Section 11.45 is an absolute prohibition on the use of EAS tones for other than an emergency – whether or not harm is caused. Stations need to police these ads – and advertisers themselves need to be aware that these ads are prohibited under FCC rules.