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Jimmy Kimmel Skit With Fake Emergency Alert Ends in F.C.C. Fine for ABC


WASHINGTON — Simulated wireless alert tones used in a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” skit making fun of a presidential alert test have cost ABC $395,000 in civil fines with the Federal Communications Commission.

In another action on Thursday, AMC Networks agreed to pay a $104,000 fine for using an alert tone in a February episode of “The Walking Dead.” The commission also fined Discovery’s Animal Planet channel and Meruelo Radio Holdings smaller amounts for similar violations.

The use of the emergency alert system or wireless emergency alert tones is barred by F.C.C. rules “to avoid confusion when the tones are used, alert fatigue among listeners and false activation of the system by the operative data elements contained in the alert tones,” the agency said.

Discovery agreed to pay a $68,000 civil penalty because an episode of Animal Planet’s “Lone Star Law” contained an actual wireless emergency alert tone. The crew was filming Texas game wardens after Hurricane Harvey and caught the tone of a real wireless alert.

Meruelo paid $67,000 for broadcasting a simulated signal in a promotion for its morning show on the Southern California FM radio stations KDAY and KDEY.

AMC, Discovery and Meruelo did not immediately comment

ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Company, said in a statement that it took “regulatory compliance seriously, and we are pleased to have resolved this issue.” It admitted it had broadcast the tones “in the absence of an actual emergency” or authorized test in the Oct. 3 episode of Mr. Kimmel’s show, which used a simulated emergency alert tone three times during the sketch.

ABC told the F.C.C. that the tones had been improperly included because of a “misunderstanding that the use of the tone was permissible.” The commission said ABC had taken steps to remove the portion of the episode containing the tones from its website and other streaming sites, and had decided not to rebroadcast the episode.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent presidential wireless alerts in October to millions of mobile phones that set off a loud tone, a special vibration and a message reading: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”


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