FCC To Fine CBS $272,000 For EAS Tone In Show

The commission says the fine for an episode of Young Sheldon reinforces its rule that Emergency Alert System tones must only be used for real emergencies and authorized testing.

The FCC today proposed a $272,000 fine against CBS Broadcasting for the April 12, 2018, episode of the sitcom Young Sheldon that included a simulated Emergency Alert System tone.

As the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau made clear in an Enforcement Advisory last month, broadcasting actual or simulated alert tones during non-emergencies and outside of proper testing or authorized public service announcements is a violation of the commission’s rules and a serious public safety concern.  The FCC recently reached settlements with ABC, AMC, Discovery, and Meruelo Radio regarding the unlawful broadcast of actual or simulated alert tones.

On April 12, 2018, CBS transmitted an episode of Young Sheldon via at least 227 television stations, including 15 of CBS’s owned-and-operated television stations. The episode included a sound effect accompanying a tornado warning, which the producers modified, but still audibly resembled actual EAS tones.

FCC rules prohibit broadcasting of EAS tones — including simulations of them — aside from actual emergencies or authorized tests or public service announcements. The commission said the rules “aim to protect the integrity of the alert system by helping to avoid confusion in the event of a public threat or emergency, alert fatigue among listeners, and false activation of the EAS by the operative data elements contained in the alert tones.”

As explained in the item, the FCC found that CBS’s modifications to the EAS tones did not make broadcasting such tones permissible because the audio elements used in the episode were substantially similar to the actual EAS tones.

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