WASHINGTON, March 3 A U.S. advertisement for a
movie that sounded like an emergency alert has drawn fines of
$1.9 million for media companies Viacom Inc and Comcast
Corp's NBCUniversal and ESPN, co-controlled by Walt
Disney Co. after viewer complaints.
The Federal Communications Commission on Monday said it
found the three companies "apparently willfully and repeatedly
violated" the rules that prohibit the use of the Emergency Alert
System (EAS) sounds for purposes other than to warn viewers of
Several consumers had complained about the trailer for the
movie "The Olympus Has Fallen" shown on the television channels
Comedy Central, ESPN and SyFy in March of 2013.
The FCC review confirmed that the 30-second ad for the movie
used portions of EAS codes and alert signals, accompanied by
text "this is not a test" and "this is not a drill," which
caused "the transmission of false distress signals."
Viacom now faces $1.1 million in penalties for airing the ad
108 times on seven of its channels; NBCUniversal faces a charge
of $530,000 for showing the trailer 38 times on seven of its
cable networks; and ESPN faces a penalty of $280,000 for showing
the promo 13 times on three of its networks.
During the investigation, Viacom and NBCUniversal had argued
they were not liable for the promos and were not subject to the
FCC's rules on EAS signals as they were not participants in the
EAS program. The regulators disagreed.
The EAS is a national public warning system that ensures the
U.S. president could address all Americans during a national
emergency and allows federal, state, and local authorities to
deliver emergency information, such as Amber Alerts about
missing children or tornado warnings.
The FCC has been going after EAS violators following what it
says has been a recent spike in consumer complaints. In
November, the agency proposed a similar $25,000 fine to Turner
Broadcasting, a cable unit of Time Warner Inc, for a
promo for the Conan O'Brien comedy show on TBS.