Four American media companies have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission after unauthorised broadcasts of the emergency alert system tone. The tone, which is similar to an SMS notification, can only be broadcast on television or radio in the event of a genuine emergency, and the FCC argued that its use in entertainment shows could lead to “alert fatigue” and public dismissal of genuine emergency alerts, resulting in “a substantial threat to public safety.”
The ABC network received the largest fine, $395,000, as a 3rd October 2018 episode of the late-night comedy show Jimmy Kimmel Live! included a parody of the emergency alert. Its spoof trailer, The Textening, featured nine uses of the alert tone.
AMC was fined $104,000, as it featured the alert in an episode of the horror series The Walking Dead (Omega, broadcast on 17th February). Meruelo Radio received a $67,000 fine, as a spoof alert tone appeared in trailers on its California radio station KDAY on 8th September 2017. Animal Planet was fined $68,000, as an episode of its reality TV series Lone Star Law (Thousand Year Flood, shown on 21st January 2018) also featured the alert tone. In that case, the alert was a genuine emergency message about Hurricane Harvey, though the show was broadcast several months after the storm.