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Kimmel, 'Walking Dead', Others Settle With FCC Over Alert Misuse

The FCC has settled with AMC, Discovery, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and a radio broadcaster over misuse of the Emergency Alert System tones.

Together, the FCC is collecting over $600,000 from the offenders collectively in civil penalties, with all of them committing to a "strict" compliance regime as part of the consent decrees, according to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.

"The use of actual or simulated EAS tones during non-emergencies and outside of proper testing or public service announcements is a serious public safety concern," the bureau said. 

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On Oct. 3, 2018, the Kimmel show simulated the WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) tone three times during a sketch. It is actually the TV stations, not the network, that are responsible to the FCC for their content, but ABC agreed to pay the $395,000 fine. It is also responsible for its eight owned stations, so it is paying both for itself and its affiliates.

AMC's Walking Dead aired the EAS (broadcast Emergency Alert System) tone twice in February 2019 on eight separate occasions. AMC agreed to pay $104,000.

Discovery's Animal Planet included an actual WEA warning in its Lone Star Law series when a crew following Hurricane Harvey caught a tone while filming. The episode aired eight times and Discovery conceded the violation and agreed to pay $68,000.

The bureau included a reminder to the remainder of the broadcast and cable industries about the law. 

“We remain concerned about the misuse of the EAS codes and EAS and WEA Attention Signals, or simulations thereof, to capture audience attention during advertisements; dramatic, entertainment, and educational programs, and at any other time that there is no genuine alert, authorized test, or authorized PSA about the EAS or WEA that is accompanied by an appropriate disclaimer," the bureau said in an advisory. "The FCC may issue sanctions for such violations, including, but not limited to, monetary forfeitures.”

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.