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FCC fines TBS $25,000 for simulating emergency alert tones in 'Conan' ad

FCC fines TBS $25,000 for simulating emergency alert tones in 'Conan' ad

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We've all heard the Emergency Alert System tones being tested at some point while channel surfing late at night. If you live in an area prone to tornadoes and flooding, you're likely all too familiar with the jarring alert. But when those tones — or sounds that resemble them — are misused for non-sanctioned purposes, the FCC understandably gets very upset. Turner Broadcasting System (TBS as it's known to cable viewers) is the latest subject of the commission's ire.

After receiving complaints about a Conan ad that apparently simulated EAS sounds to grab viewer attention, the FCC set out to investigate. It requested a copy of the commercial in question from Turner, and after review, concluded that "the promotion includes audio material that constitutes a simulation of the prescribed EAS codes and Attention Signal." After all that trouble, it's issued a $25,000 Notice of Apparent Liability to Turner Broadcasting System. It's an embarrassing punishment to be sure, but amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist for the cable giant. TBS has 30 days to pay the fine, though it can also file a request to either lower the forfeiture or attempt to have it cancelled altogether.

TV station WNKY in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has also come under the FCC's scrutiny for mimicking the emergency tones during a commercial for a local sporting goods store. The station's licensee has admitted to the charge, and has made a $39,000 "voluntary contribution" and plans to implement a compliance plan to avoid future offenses. Clearly the FCC wants to ensure that the public never ignores the Emergency Alert System, especially in the unfortunate circumstances when it's more than just a test.