Commission Fines Broadcasters $1.4 Million for Misuse of Emergency Warnings

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered broadcasters Viacom and ESPN to pay $1.4 million in penalties for broadcasting advertisements that imitated the warning signals associated with the national Emergency Alert System (EAS).

According to a Forfeiture Order issued in January 2015, the Commission received numerous consumer complaints in connection with advertisements broadcast in 2013 to promote the movie “Olympus Has Fallen.” The trailer for the movie, which portrays a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., includes audio of the EAS signals. The broadcasting or transmission of such signals is a violation of FCC rules, except in cases of an actual alert or testing of the EAS.

The Commission reportedly proposed fines in March 2014 totaling nearly $2 million against Viacom, ESPN and NBCUniversal in connection with the illegal broadcasts. NBCUniversal paid $530,000, its share of the total fine, but both Viacom and ESPN disagreed with the Commission’s proposal and requested reductions in the amounts of their respective fines. However, the Commission has rejected their arguments, imposing a $1.12 million fine against Viacom and a fine of $280,000 against ESPN.

Read the complete text of the Commission’s Forfeiture Order against Viacom and ESPN.