Perhaps Sunday’s anniversary of Pearl Harbor made the FCC want to make this week one which concentrated on emergency communications issues, or perhaps it is just a coincidence. But the FCC has been active in the past 7 days dealing with emergency communications related items for broadcasters. On Wednesday, it issued a consent decree by which a broadcaster agreed to a $46,000 fine for the use of EAS tones in a commercial message. This decision follows on the heels of an investigatory letter sent to a satellite radio programmer about the apparent use of a simulated EAS tone in a commercial message when, of course, there was no real emergency. On Monday, there were two fines for non-operational EAS receivers and EAS recordkeeping failures. At the end of last week, comments were filed in an FCC proceeding looking at the retransmission of EAS alerts in non-emergency situations, such as when a tone is included in programming on a station, and what can be done to avoid those alerts being sent throughout the system. Comments are also due by the end of the month on suggested best practices on security for the EAS system, in light of the many issues that have arisen with the hacking of EAS receivers. Here is a quick look at each of these issues.
The two most recent decisions highlight the severity with which the FCC is treating the use of EAS tones – real or simulated – in non-emergency programming. We have written about past cases where the FCC has issued very substantial fines for the use of such tones in nonemergency situations, here and here. In the decision released on Wednesday, the licensee of a Michigan radio station admitted to having broadcast ads for a storm-chasing tour which contained the EAS warning tones. The National Weather Service received complaints, and in turn filed a complaint with the FCC. The Consent Decree does not provide much more information, but to indicate that the commercial containing the EAS tones was broadcast on only a single day. A $46,000 fine for a one-day violation demonstrates the gravity with which the FCC views these violations. And it is a sense of importance that attaches not just to licensees, but to programmers as well.
Continue Reading A Week of Emergency Alert System Actions at the FCC – Fines Including One for $46,000 for EAS Tones in a Commercial, and Reviews of Best Practices for the System