The FCC has proposed fining Turner Broadcasting System $200,000 for allegedly transmitting simulated Emergency Alert System (EAS) codes 14 times over a six day period in the absence of an actual emergency. Two viewers complained that an advertisement that aired on Turner’s Adult Swim Network (which shares channel airtime with the Cartoon Network) contained audio that they confused with EAS codes. The FCC agreed that even though the advertisement did not contain any embedded EAS data, the sounds used in the ad were substantially similar to the sounds made by the transmission of EAS codes. The advertisement aired seven times each on Turner’s east coast and west coast feeds, leading to the FCC to determine that it aired a total of 14 times.
In addition to this proposed fine for Turner, the FCC has issued several other enforcement decisions recently concerning simulated EAS sounds. Therefore EAS participants, including broadcasters and multi-channel video programming distributors, as well as cable networks, should be very careful to ensure that programming does not contain any audio that could be confused with the EAS attention signal or codes. Even where, as here, a third party prepares the content that contains the alleged simulation, FCC-regulated entities face potential penalties.