FCC To TV Companies: You Can’t Broadcast Emergency Alert Tones If It’s Not An Emergency

That's not actually the White House, it's a scene from a movie.

That’s not actually the White House, it’s a scene from a movie.

The thing about the Emergency Alert System is that it’s only supposed to be used to alert people when there’s an actual emergency. So anyone viewing the trailer for 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen might’ve been alarmed to hear those telltale tones along with “This is not a test” — at least until Gerard Butler’s face hits the screen.

As a result of that non-emergency use, the Federal Communications Commission wants to fine three TV companies for using the EAS sounds, reports Re/code, because the White House wasn’t attacked and Gerard Butler didn’t save the day, at least not in real life.

The FCC is slapping proposed fines of almost $2 million on Viacom, NBCUniversal and Walt Disney’s ESPN for airing that trailer multiple times, as it potentially could’ve freaked people out.

Broadcasters and cable channels are required by law to test the EAS now and then to make sure it’s working in case there really is a guerilla attack on the White House or some other emergency situation.

Back when the trailer aired in early March last year, the FCC received complaints in the days after and broadcast groups realized they should pull the trailer.

“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 FCC said in its complaint. “Although admitting their inclusion of actual EAS Tones in commercials transmitted in their programming, the companies have questioned their liability under the Act and the Commission’s rules.”

Both ESPN and Viacom say their advertising guidelines have changed since then to bar any future ads from using either real EAS tones or anything that could sound similar.

Check out the trailer below:

Cable Channels Hit With Nearly $2 Million Fine for Airing Movie Trailer [Re/code]