A one-time only broadcast leads to a “multi-state cascade” of false alarms … and a big penalty
We have previously reported on the FCC’s crackdown on the misuse of EAS tones, a crackdown that has thus far resulted in more than $2.5 million in penalties. No, wait – make that more than $3.5 million, thanks to a Consent Decree by which the Commission has extracted a cool $1 million from the coffers of iHeartCommunications for yet another violation of the Commandment Against Non-Emergency EAS Broadcasts.
Unlike previous instances in which the EAS tones were improperly used in advertising (presumably to get the audience’s attention), this time the problem is the fault of syndicated radio host Bobby Bones. In October, 2014, Mr. Bones was engaged in “commentary” about an interruption in his viewing of Game 2 of the World Series. Apparently the cable system on which he had been watching the game ran its monthly EAS alert during the game, presumably to Bones’s displeasure. While we didn’t hear the broadcast, we’re guessing that, to illustrate just how annoying and disruptive an EAS alert can be, Bones played the EAS tones – but not the tones as they were heard during the baseball game. Instead, he used a recording of the EAN Event code from the November, 2011, nationwide EAS test.
The mere broadcast of the tones in a non-emergency context would ordinarily have been enough to fetch a hefty fine. (Anyone who doubts that should take a quick look at Section 11.45 of the Commission’s rules). But there was more. Bones’s show is carried on more than 70 stations. A number of EAS participants downstream from those stations didn’t have their own EAS gear set to recognize the November, 2011 date of the EAN Event code, so they responded as though it were a real live EAS message, which they dutifully retransmitted to other EAS participants further downstream.
The result: “a multi-state cascade of false EAS alerts”. Oops.Continue Reading...