iHeartCommunications has admitted causing what the Federal Communications Commission called a “multi-state cascade” of false emergency alerts on radio and TV stations and agreed to pay a $1 million fine to the US Treasury. Last October, an iHeart show aired Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones even though there was no emergency, “engag[ing] the EAS equipment of certain other EAS participants, ultimately causing a multi-state activation of the EAS,” according to a consent decree with the FCC.
iHeart, which owns 859 radio stations in more than 150 US markets, also agreed to a new compliance and reporting plan designed to prevent future misuse of EAS tones, the FCC said today. The commission announcement explained:

On October 24, 2014, iHeart’s station WSIX-FM, in Nashville, Tennessee, aired a false emergency alert during the broadcast of the nationally-syndicated “The Bobby Bones Show.” Broadcast or transmission of emergency tones outside an emergency or authorized test violates FCC regulations designed to protect the integrity of the EAS system. False broadcast of an emergency signal can cause unnecessary public concern and undermine the urgency of real alerts.
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.

The problem was exacerbated when other stations’ equipment failed to recognize that the tone was not intended to be a real-time emergency alert.
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