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]

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  1. CzarChasm says:

    I love how the FCC can fine people for things they didn’t know they were doing wrong and there are no written rules about. Yay government!

    • CharlesWinthrop says:

      Except for the fact that they DID know they were doing the wrong things, and the rules about it ARE written. And have been for a LONG (since 1951) time! Yay for ignorant trolls!

      • SingleMaltGeek says:

        Charlie, you’re so mean! Next you’re going to say that it’s illegal for CzarChasm to use that siren they have to get people to pull over so they can get where they’re going faster! Who cares if it scares people and might make them ignore public safety warnings!

      • CzarChasm says:

        Gee guys, I’m sorry I’m not up on my FCC codes I probably don’t have quite as much time to study them as you two. Since the article does not mention these rules,that everyone is clearly so familiar with I’m sure you can provide the source, so I won’t make another ignorant blunder. Personally, I think your a liar, but feel free to prove me wrong.

  2. SingleMaltGeek says:

    OMG, $2 million dollars?!? That’s, like, almost 2% of NBC’s total ad revenue for the Winter Olympics!! That will be, like, a whole 3 or 4 commercials worth of profit!!!

    (Hint: it was totes worth it!)


  3. FusioptimaSX says:

    No skin off NBCUniversal’s backs….they’ll just pass off the cost onto Comcast customers….. -_-

    I don’t understand why no one thought about it during the production of the movie. They could have simply just used another sound that is not associated with the Emergency Broadcast System.