At the FCC, misuse of emergency alert tones that warn people of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, tsunamis, or other natural or man-made disasters is no laughing matter. Jimmy Kimmel is learning that today; his late night show is responsible for costing the ABC television network $395,000 in fines for misusing the alert tones in a comedy sketch. Two other networks, AMC and Discovery, were also found to be mis-using the tones which can only be used in an emergency. AMC was fined $104,000 while Animal Planet with Discovery was fined $68,000.
According to legal documents filed by the FCC, “To preserve and protect the unique purpose of the EAS Tones, the Commission enforces laws prohibiting the use of the tones, or simulations of them, except in actual emergencies, authorized tests of the EAS, or qualified PSAs (public service announcements.)” The document adds, “These laws preserve and protect the ability of authentic EAS Tones to be heeded and perform important functions during actual emergencies, such as gaining the listener’s or viewer’s attention prior to the transmission of potentially life-saving information and conveying specially coded signals to activate critical emergency equipment.”
To settle the legal matter, ABC Television admitted that the episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! contained WEA Tones in the absence of an actual emergency, agreed to implement a compliance plan, and paid a $395,000 civil penalty.
The other networks involved in this week’s announcement from the FCC will pay smaller fines because their use of the tone was substantially smaller. AMC will pay $104,000 for using the alert tone used in a February episode of “The Walking Dead” while Discovery will pay a $68,000 fine for capturing a real emergency alert while shooting “Lone Star Law” on Animal Planet.