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Why it matters: The FCC said the use of actual or simulated emergency alert tones during non-emergencies or outside of authorized testing periods is a serious public safety concern. Rules are in place to restrict the broadcast of these tones in order to protect the integrity of the alert system. Indeed, if people were to hear them regularly in television shows, a real emergency might not be taken seriously and could cause unnecessary confusion.
The Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau has collectively issued more than $600,000 in fines to a TV broadcaster, cable TV networks and a radio broadcaster for misusing Emergency Alert System (EAS) / Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) tones.
According to the FCC, episodes of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," AMC's "The Walking Dead" and Discovery's "Lone Star Law" aired actual or simulated emergency alert tones which violate the commission's rules. Los Angeles-area morning radio shows also aired promos featuring the tone.
Specifically, the October 3, 2018, episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" used a simulated WEA tone three times during a comedy sketch. ABC agreed to pay a fine of $395,000 to resolve the matter.
"The Walking Dead" in February 2019 used EAS tones twice in the "Omega Episode" and has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $104,000.
Discovery's Animal Planet network in an episode of "Lone Star Law" entitled "Thousand Year Flood" aired an actual WEA signal. The network has agreed to pay $68,000 for the violation.
In the fall of 2017, Meruelo Radio Holdings' KDAY and KDEY-FM used a simulated EAS signal in a promotion for its morning show. The station will pay a civil fine of $67,000.
All parties have also committed to a strict compliance plan to ensure the violations do not happen again.
Masthead credit: emergency alert by Simone Hogan. Kimmel image courtesy Randy Holmes via Getty Images.