You can get away with a lot during a television broadcast and walk away with a relative slap on the wrist. But if there’s one thing the FCC doesn’t take too kindly to it’s broadcasting emergency alert tones when they aren’t warranted. Fox is being reminded of that this week.
The FCC published a notice on Tuesday in which it proposed a penalty of $504,000 against Fox Corporation and its local television subsidiaries for “willfully violating the Federal Communications Commission’s rules that prohibit the transmission of, or causing the transmission of, false or deceptive emergency alert system (EAS) codes or EAS Attention Signals, or simulations thereof (together, EAS Tones).”
The incident in question occurred on November 28, 2021, when the pre-game show Fox NFL Sunday included a fake emergency alert sound during a promo for the upcoming NFL games. The promo aired on over 18 Fox-owned local television stations, 190 Fox-affiliated TV stations, Fox Sports-affiliated iHeartMedia radio stations, and on the Fox Sports SiriusXM satellite radio channel.
The promo in question is remembered more for including a joke URL that someone registered and directed toward pro-Donald Trump political ads. However, it ended up being a double-whammy as Fox also failed to note that playing the EAS tones was a big violation of FCC rules.
The FCC said that Fox’s production team “reviewed the promotional segment following its development, and prior to its public transmission, but provided no comments or changes” before it aired.
“Based on our review of the current record, we find no basis for a downward adjustment,” reads the FCC notice regarding the proposed fine amount. “This was not a minor violation.”
It’s not yet known if Fox will ask for a reduction or cancellation of the fine amount.
ESPN has had a few run-ins with the FCC over EAS tone usage as well. In 2020, they aired EAS tones during their re-broadcast of 30 for 30: Roll Tide/War Eagle. The FCC proposed a $20,000 fine for that transgression. In 2015, the FCC fined ESPN $280,000 and Viacom $1,120,000 for repeatedly broadcasting a trailer for the movie No Surrender that included EAS tones as well.