FCC fines ESPN for misusing Emergency Alert System tones

Tuesday January 20th, 2015

The federal government's Emergency Alert System is supposed to be used to notify the public about impending doom, not advertise movies. That's why the FCC has fined ESPN and Viacom for misusing the system's high-pitched warning tones in a commercial for the movie Olympus Has Fallen.

"THIS IS NOT A DRILL" the commercial proclaimed. Right, it wasn't a drill, just an ad for a poorly reviewed movie starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. 

ESPN was fined $280,000 and Viacom was fined $1,120,000. The networks tried to get their fines reduced, but the FCC rejected their appeals.

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"The public relies on this system to prepare them for real emergencies," Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement. "Our action here sends a strong signal that use of the EAS tones for non-emergency purposes presents a danger to public safety which we will not tolerate."

The FCC is putting its foot down. If a nationwide signal warns the country about a disaster, the person in danger better not be the guy who played Harvey Dent.

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- Dan Gartland

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