NEW YORK — There was nothing funny to the Federal Communications Commission about this comedy bit.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” is among the shows hit with FCC fines for improper use of Emergency Alert System tones thanks to a comedy sketch that ran in the Oct. 3, 2018 episode. ABC, which airs the late-night talk show, admitted to violating the pertaining laws for the bit, which included a simulated Wireless Emergency Alert Tone. The network agreed to pay a civil penalty of $395,000 and apply a plan which will “ensure future compliance with the EAS Laws.”

In total, more than $600,000 in fines were dished out, with other targets including AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Animal Planet’s “Lone Star Law” and Meruelo radio morning shows that air in Los Angeles.

Emergency Alert System tones are only meant to be used “in actual emergencies, authorized tests of the EAS, or qualified (public service announcements) PSAs,” according to a press release from the FCC Thursday.

The Kimmel sketch, in the form of a faux movie trailer, was meant to lambaste President Trump for his then-new emergency alert system that texts the public. At the center of the bit is a family frantically trying to literally outrun a relentless onslaught of Trump texts, “Presidential Alerts,” and warnings of “FAKE NEWS.” Chaos — including gunshots, a fire, and a man cutting off his own hand — ensues.

“The Walking Dead” fine, a $104,000 civil penalty and a compliance plan agreement, stems from misusing EAS tones twice in its “Omega” episode, which aired in February.


Used in the case of a “national emergency,” the EAS requires TV broadcasters, radio providers and more to “supply the communications capability to the President of the United States to address the American public.” The system can also be used by federal, state and local authorities “to deliver emergency information,” like location-specific weather information or AMBER alerts for missing children.

These laws, the FCC noted, are meant to ensure that listeners or viewers will pay attention before “the transmission of potentially life-saving information and conveying specially coded signals to activate critical emergency equipment.”

“Alert fatigue,” the FCC warns, can occur when people become desensitized to EAS Tones — particularly if they’re used commercially or for entertainment — pushing them to wonder if the alert is signaling actual danger or something else entirely.

Animal Planet, which is owned by Discovery, owes $68,000 after including “an actual WEA Signal” in a 2018 episode of the reality series “Lone Star Law.” And Meruelo’s KDAY and KDEY-FM’s radio shows were fined $67,000 for breaking the rules in 2017.

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