FCC Proposes ESPN Fine For EAS Violation

Roll tide/War Eagle
(Image credit: ESPN)

The FCC has proposed to fine ESPN $20,000 for violating, apparently willfully it said, the rules against transmitting a false emergency alert system (EAS) code or signal or a simulation.

The proposed fine--ESPN can still dispute it--stems from an Oct. 27 30 for 30: Roll Tide/War Eagle program about the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.

ESPN admitted that it had included a portion of the EAS signal "in association with the depiction of a weather event “for storytelling purposes," pointed out that it could not have triggered any automated response and that it only lasted 1.83 seconds.

The FCC said that although the show may have only used a portion of the alert, it was still a willful violation of its rules that deserved a forfeiture.

While the FCC's base fine is $8,000 per violation, it decided to adjust it upward based in part on what it said was ESPN's a history of noncompliance with the EAS rules, pointing to a 2015 $280,000 forfeiture for transmitting unauthorized EAS tones, saying: "We find ESPN’s prior history of violations to be a significant factor to consider in determining the proposed forfeiture in this case."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.