The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and broadcaster Univision have entered into a Consent Decree under which Univision will pay a $20,000 civil penalty for broadcasting five instances of a “simulated” EAS tone as part of a radio broadcast.
The Consent Decree indicates that on January 28, 2014, the hosts of a Spanish-language radio show in New York played what is described as “a sound effect containing a ‘simulated’ version of the EAS Header and End of Message Codes several times during a comedy sketch.” The sound effect contained the recorded EAS tones from an EAS test that the station had broadcast.
Because this was a Consent Decree and not a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, the Bureau did not disclose how it arrived at the $20,000 penalty. The Consent Decree did note, however, that the station “has taken steps to educate on-air talent and staff . . . regarding the proper use of EAS sounds, tones, codes, and equipment,” and that, for unrelated reasons, it cancelled the show.
The Consent Decree comes just days after the FCC issued a Forfeiture Order fining Viacom and ESPN a combined $1.4 million for repeatedly transmitting a movie trailer that contained EAS tones.
Although we feel a bit like a broken record, it is again worth stressing that all companies involved in the creation or transmission of content for broadcast, cablecast, or transmission via satellite to viewers or listeners should implement training programs and other processes to ensure that they are not involved in the transmission of EAS tones, or any sounds that can be construed as a simulation thereof, outside of an actual emergency. The Enforcement Bureau clearly has determined that enforcing the prohibition on misuse of EAS tones is a high priority, making it advisable for program producers to remain on high alert.