US TV Networks Fined Millions For Airing Movie’s Fake Emergency Alert

The US communications authority is proposing a fine of nearly $US2 million for cable channels that aired a trailer for Olympus Has Fallen, which uses the tones from the Emergency Alert System. The thinking is that if you hear the tones all the time, you’ll get desensitised to them and stop paying attention.

You’re familiar with the Emergency Alert System tones; they’re the jarring bleeps that play when the system gets tested. You might not be familiar, though, with the laws that restrict broadcasters from airing the tones on TV when it’s not an emergency.

At the very beginning of the Olympus Has Fallen trailer in question (above), you hear sounds very similar to those used on the EAS. It’s a very effective narrative tool! According to the complaint originally reported by Re/code, the Federal Communications Commission in the US began receiving complains in early March last year, and the trailer continued to show up on cable networks for about a week before it was all finally snuffed out. The proposed fines: Viacom $US1.12 million for airing the commercial 57 times, ESPN $US280,000 for 13 airs, and NBCUniversal $US530,000 for 33 airs.

This was probably an honest mistake, but it still probably makes sense for the FCC to come down hard in order to keep the networks honest. Besides, maybe they probably deserve for promoting such a terrible, terrible movie in the first place. [FCC via Re/code]