Tegna to Pay $55,000 to Settle FCC EAS Violation

Tegna has agreed to pay $55,000 and adopt a compliance plan to settle an FCC complaint that its WTLV Jacksonville, Fla., aired emergency alert system (EAS) warnings in a promo for the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars.

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau says it has entered into the a consent decree with the station owner, which admitted it had simulcast the EAS tones "absent an actual emergency or authorized test."

"[F]rivolous or other unauthorized use of actual or simulated EAS tones risks desensitizing the public to the tones’ association with critical information, and such 'Cry Wolf' scenarios present a real threat to public safety," the bureau said. 

But given the agreement, the bureau also said the FCC would not designate Tegna's qualifications for holding a TV station license for hearing.

A complaint was filed last August alleging WTLV had aired the promo multiple times featuring an EAS "burst and tone," as well as the warning that “this is an emergency broadcast transmission. This is not a test. This is an emergency broadcast transmission.  This is not a test. Please remain calm. Seek shelter.” 

The FCC said the promo aired four times before a station employee saw it, pulled it, and contacted management. Station management said the alert tones were imbedded in the promo and did not trigger any EAS equipment.

"Although [the licensee] claims that its 'routine operating policies and practices' prohibit the improper transmission of EAS Tones, its employees apparently failed to screen the Promotion [which came from the Jaguars] before airing it, which resulted in the improper broadcasts at issue here," the FCC said. 

Stations, not the producers of content—like NFL teams, advertisers or even networks—are ultimately responsible for what goes out over their air.

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.