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FCC Fines iHeart $1 Million for Airing Fake Emergency Alert Tone during Bobby Bones Show

It’s hard to believe that some radio stations still haven’t gotten the message that the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is no joking matter. Today the FCC announced that it has fined iHeartCommunications $1,000,000 (see the order and consent decree here) after an investigation into an October, 2014 broadcast of the syndicated “The Bobby Bones Show.” According to a statement issued by the FCC today,

While commenting on an EAS test that aired during the 2014 World Series, Bobby Bones, the show’s host, broadcast an EAS tone from a recording of an earlier nationwide EAS test.  This false emergency alert was sent to more than 70 affiliated stations airing ‘The Bobby Bones Show’ and resulted in some of these stations retransmitting the tones, setting off a multi-state cascade of false EAS alerts on radios and televisions in multiple states. 

As part of the settlement, iHeart admits that its broadcasting of EAS tones during ‘The Bobby Bones Show’ violated the FCC’s EAS laws.  The company is required to pay a civil penalty of $1 million dollars and implement a comprehensive three-year compliance and reporting plan.  Additionally, they must remove or delete all simulated or actual EAS tones from the company’s audio production libraries.”

On Radio Survivor we’ve been following the flurry of enforcement actions in the past few years related to the airing of false emergency alert tones. The FCC notes that, “in the last six months, the Commission has taken five enforcement actions totaling nearly $2.5 million for misuse of EAS tones by broadcasters and cable networks.”

The FCC’s main concern is that EAS tones should only be used in the event of an actual emergency (or test) in order to maintain the effectiveness of the EAS system to warn citizens during real crises. Back in fall 2013, the FCC even issued an Enforcement Advisory about the Emergency Alert System. If you have any confusion over it, it’s worth revisiting in order to avoid a hefty fine.

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