Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by

If your station airs commercial or other content that contains an EAS tone or something close to it as attention-getters, the FCC will hunt you down and fine you heavily.  How serious is the FCC about this?  Serious enough to more than triple the base forfeiture for false distress signals, and place a $25,000 price tag to Turner Broadcasting System for preparing and distributing to over 97 million households a promotion for the Conan show that included sounds that were similar to an EAS tone.  The promotion generated multiple complaints from viewers, including one made to the FCC.  And that’s not all.  On the same day, the FCC entered into a consent decree with a television station that had aired multiple false distress signals, with that station agreeing to pay $39,000 to the FCC in conjunction with a training and compliance program.

Simultaneously with these actions, the FCC issued both a news release and an FCC Enforcement Advisory containing stern warnings for those who misuse, or allow the misuse, of EAS tones to capture audience attention during advertisements and at other times when there is no emergency or test.  The Enforcement Advisory included an interesting footnote about FCC rules that permit EAS participants to use PSAs or commercial sponsors to explain the EAS system to the public, but not even that material can simulate or attempt to copy alert tones or codes.  Another clarifying and helpful sentence states that “general alarms or other loud noises, including bells, claxons, and police, fire or civil defense sirens, are not considered simulations of the EAS tones.”

So, you are hereby forewarned.  Screen your broadcast station content to make sure EAS tones or simulations are not included, except in connection with an actual EAS test or alert.