Thursday, May 22, 2014

When and When not to EAS

In March of last year Millennium Films released the movie Olympus Has Fallen.  the ads were pretty good but the movie was not great. Rotten Tomatoes charitably gave it a 48%. rating. But back to those ads. The first batch of them contained real EAS tones.  This was a no-no. The fines could have been as high as $8,000 per incident. The studio responsibly pulled the spots and even the trailer on Youtube was deleted. [Source] The total bill was as follows:
Viacom - $1,120,000
NBC-Universal - $530,000
Disney/ESPN - $280,000

The FCC policy is completely congruous with their past enforcement. It also just plain makes sense. You don't want people to dismiss real Emergency Announcements because action movie trailers and antacid spots have desensitized them to the alert sound. The whole idea is that we should take seriously that call to action. to quote the FCC "Frivolous, casual, or other uses of EAS Tones for reasons other than their defined purpose can desensitize viewers to the tones and thereby undermine the effectiveness of the system in the event of an actual emergency."

Btu the FCC has also decided recently to grant one waiver to that same policy. The current set of EAS tones we knwo today were only introduced in 2008. FEMA, who oversees some of this mess decided in 2013 they needed to (finally) educate the public about new beepy noises versus old beepy noises. So persuant to said beepy noises, on May 16th, 2013, FEMA requested that the FCC waive the applicable rules to allow the broadcast of  PSAs containing the very same beepy noises. the FCC said "OK" but only for one year.

ON May 21st of this year, (just over 1-year later) FEMA asked for and received an 18 month extension to continue their campaign of beepy noise awareness PSAs.  However, the FCC also said that "leading off a PSA with a WEA Attention Signal, without warning, may be an effective attention-getting device, but it would violate the conditions of this waiver because of the effect that it could have on the listening or viewing public."  In other words.. don't do that. This waiver covers only PSAs, and only PSAs regarding EAS tones, and only if they are don't in a way to educate about EAS without spooking your listeners. Putting them in  Kingsford Charcoal ad  (for example) is still a no-no.