The Federal Communications Commission announced on Thursday that ABC had been fined $395,000 for a sketch aired on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which includes tones from the Emergency Alert System.
The system is used on television and cell phones to warn people of impending emergencies, such as tornadoes or floods.
The Kimmel sketch called “The Texting,” which aired Oct. 3, 2018, included the EAS tone multiple times.
The FCC explained in a Thursday news release the use of the actual tone during non-emergencies is a “serious safety concern.”
“The FCC’s rules prohibit such broadcasting of EAS tones — including simulations of them — except during actual emergencies, authorized tests or authorized public service announcements,” the release reads.
“These rules aim to protect the integrity of the alert system by helping to avoid confusion when the tones are used, alert fatigue among listeners, and false activation of the EAS by the operative data elements contained in the alert tones.”
MarketWatch reported the same day the Kimmel sketch aired millions of phones across the country had received a presidential alert reading: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
On his program that evening, Kimmel introduced the segment saying, “The idea of letting President Trump send a text message to every American whenever he wants to may sound like a bad idea, and it is a bad idea.”
“But what do we do here in Hollywood when we have a bad idea? Make a major motion picture out of it,” he added.
The mock trailer showed bedlam erupting as people received texts from Trump.
ABC admitted to the violation in a consent decree and agreed to a compliance plan regarding appropriate use of the EAS tone going forward.
In addition to ABC, the FCC also hit AMC, Discovery’s Animal Planet and Meruelo Radio Holdings with fines for misuse of emergency signals.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” twice included EAS tones in the “Omega Episode” of its television program in February 2019.
AMC has agreed to pay a $104,000 fine.
Animal Planet’s “Lone Star Law” broadcast an episode called “Thousand Year Flood,” which include a Wireless Emergency Alert tone. The channel must pay $68,000.
Finally, Meruelo’s Los Angeles radio stations — KDAY and KDEY-FM – ran a promotion for its morning show nearly 140 times, which included the EAS tone.
The company will pay $67,000 in fines.
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