New EAS Rules Released – July 2018, False Alerts report

The commission now requires broadcasters to notify the FCC if their station broadcasts a false EAS alert and has enacted a requirement to do so within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident. An effective date has not yet been issued.  In the past stations have run false EAS alerts due to not checking program content and inadvertently aired a false EAS alert – a violation of the FCC’s EAS rules as stations are ultimately responsible for the aired material.  There have been several instances in recent years in which advertisers have used EAS tones in commercials, primarily in action-adventure movie trailers.

“Right now, only a simple email to the FCC Ops Center will be required,” said attorney David Oxenford of OAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer. Oxenford noted that the FCC is seeking comment on “whether a more detailed reporting system should be created, allowing for the reporting of false alerts not just by the EAS participants, but also by the public and other interested organizations.”  The FCC Ops Center email is (FCCOPS@fcc.gov).

As part of its order the FCC did approve some exceptions to using EAS tones in instances in which there is not an actual EAS alert.  Oxenford said the FCC will now allow the use of the EAS attention signal in PSAs and other informational announcements from FEMA and other public interest organizations, “but only where simulated tones developed by FEMA are used, as these simulated tones will not trigger other station’s EAS alerts, and only where the tones used are specifically identified as not being a real notice of an emergency.”

Another change resulted as the FCC approved what’s called “live code testing,” in which EAS alert tones are used in practice alerts. It comes with a big caveat said Oxenford, as stations are only allowed to do so “after providing lots of publicity that the tones are being used only as part of a test.” Previously, this was only allowed by a special waiver from the FCC.

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