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FCC Tells WXNY-FM that it’s Not Funny to Broadcast Emergency Alert Tones

New York radio station WXNY-FM is being asked to pay a $20,000 penalty because it aired Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones as part of a comedy sketch on the January 28, 2014 episode of the Luis Jimenez Show.

EAS tones are only supposed to be broadcast during actual alerts or during authorized EAS tests and are never to be broadcast in other circumstances. The Consent Decree issued between the FCC and Univision (the license holder of WXNY-FM) states that:

WXNY-FM is one of Univision’s Spanish-language radio stations serving the New York City metropolitan area. Several of WXNY’s disc jockeys, speaking in a mix of Spanish and English, played the tones during a comedy routine, at one point acknowledging it was illegal, but continuing to broadcast the tones. The station’s use of the EAS tones in this manner violated statutory and regulatory prohibitions against the transmission of actual or simulated EAS tones absent an emergency or test of the system.”
It’s amazing to me that the DJs actually acknowledged that they weren’t allowed to air EAS tones during the sketch. When reviewing a recording of the sketch, the FCC uncovered that they even broadcast a sound clip that was taken from a previously broadcast EAS test tone! Here’s more from the Consent Decree:
WADO [the parent company of WXNY-FM] states that the DJs played a sound effect containing a ‘simulated’ version of the EAS Header and End-of-Message Codes several times during a comedy sketch. WADO admits that the sound effect contained recorded EAS Tones that had aired over the Station during the previous day’s broadcast of an authorized EAS test. The Station first broadcast the EAS Tones while DJ Speedy was speaking about men who gain weight. The Station broadcast the EAS Tones a second time when DJ Luis, laughing, remarked, ‘[H]ey you set off the radio emergency system’ and then played them a third time as part of the continuing banter among the DJs. Moments later, just after DJ Speedy said ‘I’m going to tell you about two young boys that . . .,’ the Station played the EAS Tones a fourth time. Then DJ Luis commented: ‘[l]o que no se puede poner es el sonido por que I think it’s illegal, ya. . . .Eso es para emergencias. . . ,’ before playing the EAS Tones a fifth time.”
As part of the Consent Decree, Univision also agrees to set up a compliance plan in order to train DJs and staff so that the station avoids future violations. Interestingly, the Luis Jimenez Show has already been cancelled. According to the Consent Decree,

WADO states that it has ‘taken steps to educate on-air talent and staff . . . regarding the proper use of EAS sounds, tones, codes, and equipment,’ and points out that, for reasons unrelated to the broadcast of the EAS Tones, it canceled the Luis Jimenez Show in July 2014.”
It’s incredible that stations continue to misuse EAS tones, particularly in light of recent hefty fines for violators, as well as a late 2013 Enforcement Advisory. In related news, last week the FCC affirmed its $1.4 million in fines that were proposed last year against Viacom and ESPN for using EAS tones in a televised movie trailer.

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