“Emergency Alert” Olympus Movie Trailer Brings Nearly $2M in Fines for Cable Channels

Here’s a rather hilarious bit of TV drama I hadn’t hurt about until now. Viacom, NBCUniversal and ESPN have just been hit with nearly $2M in combined fines by the FCC for airing a trailer for “Olympus Has Fallen,” the Gerard Butler film where he tries to protect the president from an attack on DC.

There wasn’t any nudity or swearing that caused the problem, it was the fact that the spot used the famed, recognizable tones of the nationally mandated emergency alert broadcast system. Viewers started calling in to complain about the spot which at least sounds like it could be a real alert, though the visuals should give you some sort of clue that it’s fictionalized. Though to be fair it does say “this is not a test” right at the start there. Who thought that was a good idea?

The Federal Communications Commission proposed $1.93 million in fines against the three channel programmers, Viacom ($1.12 million), NBCUniversal ($530,000) and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN ($280,000), for airing the trailer multiple times.

“Frivolous, casual, or other uses of EAS Tones for reasons other than their defined purpose can desensitize viewers to the tones and thereby undermine the effectiveness of the system in the event of an actual emergency,” the FCC said in its complaint. “Although admitting their inclusion of actual EAS Tones in commercials transmitted in their programming, the companies have questioned their liability under the Act and the Commission’s rules.”

I understand the need to not have other programming with these sounds, but $2M in fines seems a bit steep. I suppose they want to teach everyone else a lesson not to pull this kind of stunt again.

Paul Tassi is the Managing Editor of TVovermind and also manages the website Unrealitymag.com. He's contributed to major publications such as Forbes as well as BC Media Group properties.
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