It Starts at the Top…
The day after Memorial Day will be memorable for one Florida TV station but not for the right reasons. May 30 2017 is when WTLV TV and the FCC agreed to a Consent Decree ending an investigation into the station’s violations of EAS rules. The FCC cited WTLV TV for airing commercials last August which included EAS tones with an audio message assuring the audience that “this is not a test”. The ad went on to promote the local National Football League Team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While you can debate whether the $55,000 penalty included in the agreement is countered by the publicity generated for the team and the station, that certainly wasn’t the only expense Multimedia Holdings, the owners of WTLV’s license, paid to settle the matter. The terms of the Consent Decree also call for the station to implement a “compliance and reporting plan” on the proper use of EAS tones. In addition to the paperwork, there are the fees and costs incurred by the station’s attorneys over the nine months of negotiations and the fact that the station will have to remind everyone at the FCC about the settlement and fine again in 2020 when they apply for their license renewal.
The normal first reaction here might be to blame an over-zealous Account Executive for the idea of using EAS tones in a commercial. But it’s not likely that only one person was responsible for this blatant violation of long-standing FCC rules. Not only did someone write a commercial which incorporated EAS tones and verbiage, someone had to produce the commercial, including the EAS tones. Presumably–because an NFL spot has got to be a Big Deal even for a station like WTLV–someone had to review the commercial before it went to traffic and air. That’s a lot of TV station “someone’s” who didn’t think there was anything wrong with using EAS tones and a “this is not a test” message to promote a football team.
It’s sad to think that two years after the Bobby Bones debacle the staff of a major market TV station in the heart of hurricane country didn’t know that there was a FCC rule against using EAS tones for anything other than an EAS activation. Ultimately, the WTLV management pulled the ad, but not before someone noticed the EAS tones and filed an FCC complaint.
Apparently the time has passed when everyone at a radio or TV station knew the basic rules of broadcasting, including those involving EAS. It didn’t help that we relegated EAS to rack rooms and engineers only. Today our engineers are more about IT than broadcast. However, ignorance of the law is not an excuse and because management is ultimately responsible for what happens at a station, as your EAS State Chair, I’m asking all station managers “Do you know what’s on your air?”
For more information and questions about EAS rules, contact me.
Adrienne Abbott, firstname.lastname@example.org