use of eas tones in programming

One million dollars is still a big fine, even though the FCC has been handing out fines for that amount, or more, many times in recent months. But fines rarely hit these levels for broadcasters. But, yesterday, the FCC issued such a fine – hitting iHeart Media with a $1 Million fine as part of a Consent Decree imposed for the inappropriate use of EAS tones in the Bobby Bones syndicated radio program. The program was being run on 82 stations across the country. According to the FCC’s order approving the Consent Decree and imposing the associated fine and compliance plan, the broadcast of those tones triggered EAS alerts across several states – principally at stations and cable systems that had not activated the ability of the EAS system to recognize the date of an alert (the program rebroadcast the FCC’s first national EAS test, a test that was conducted almost 3 years before the Bones broadcast).

As with many other recent cases where the FCC has imposed heavy fines on broadcasters and cable programmers for use of EAS tones in entertainment broadcasts (see our articles here, here, here, and here tracing the history of the FCC’s escalating penalties for this kind of violation over the last few years), the FCC sees these matters as threats to public health and safety, as the public could react adversely to these EAS alerts that were not tied to real emergencies (or be desensitized by repeated false alerts to the importance of real alerts). The FCC’s News Release announcing the adoption of the Consent Decree makes exactly this point – the misuse of EAS alerts are threats to the public safety.
Continue Reading FCC Fines iHeart Media $1,000,000 for Broadcasting EAS Alert Tones When there was No Emergency – What the Big Fine Says to Broadcasters