12:06pm PT by Eriq Gardner
FCC Fines TV Companies $1.9 Million for Messing With Emergency Alert System
This is not a test.
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed $1.9 million in fines for Viacom, NBCUniversal and ESPN for airing a spot for Olympus Has Fallen in March 2013.
The trouble with the film's advertisement, according to the FCC, was that it contained sounds reminiscent of the Emergency Alert System, a national public warning system. The FCC says that "frivolous, casual, or other uses of EAS Tones for reasons other than their defined purpose can desensitize viewers to the tones and thereby undermine the effectiveness of the system in the event of an actual emergency."
The TV companies are said to have admitted their inclusion of the EAS Tones in the commercials but are questioning their liability under Section 325(a) of the Communications Act of 1934. The media regulatory agency wants to punish Viacom in the amount of $1.12 million for 57 airings of the commercial, NBCU in the amount of $530,000 for 33 airings and ESPN in the amount of $280,000 for 13 airings.
According to the FCC's notes about the $1.9 million fine, word was circulating in the television industry by March 6 about the EAS Tones in the Olympus Has Fallen trailer. The following day, the matter had been brought to the attention of the MPAA, the National Cable Telecommunications Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. NBC says that with one exception, it stopped running the commercial that day.
"The Companies argue that it was clear from the context that the No Surrender Trailer was an advertisement for a movie, and that no viewer could reasonably interpret the tones heard therein as related to an actual emergency," says the FCC. No matter. the agency quickly adds that "enforcement of Section 325(a) of the Act is not conditioned on proof of deception or harm."
Last November, the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine over a EAS violation on the Conan O’Brien Show.
The Olympus Has Fallen spot is still on YouTube.