‘The Walking Dead’ fined $104,000 for ‘misusing’ emergency signal alert in episode

Steve Kazee as Frank, Scarlett Blum as Young Lydia - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Steve Kazee as Frank, Scarlett Blum as Young Lydia - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Originally posted Thursday, August 15, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The Federal Communications Commission hasn't fined a TV show in years regarding obscenities or nudity (think Janet Jackson), but it just went after three shows for "misusing" emergency alert signals including "The Walking Dead," shot in metro Atlanta.

The hit AMC show had to shell out $104,000 in fines for airing simulated emergency alert tones during the opening seconds of season 9’s “Omega” episode that aired in February of this year.

The FCC prohibits use of actual or simulated EAS tones during non-emergencies and outside of proper testing or public service announcements.

“These rules aim to protect the integrity of the alert system by helping to avoid confusion when the tones are used, alert fatigue among listeners, and false activation of the EAS by the operative data elements contained in the alert tones,” the FCC said in a press release.

"The Walking Dead" was airing an origin story episode for the woman who would become the dangerous enemy named Alpha, played by Samantha Morton. It was the early days of the zombie apocalypse and a radio alert sound is going off while an announcer over the air is trying to tell everyone to stay calm. It's a set up to show that the world is going to hell and her character goes from quiet and reasonable to vicious and cold.

"The Jimmy Kimmel Show" on ABC had to pay a hefty $395,000 fine for using a simulated wireless emergency alert (WEA) tone three times during a sketch in 2018. Animal Planet's "Lone Star Law" accidentally aired an actual WEA tone heard on crew members' phones while filming and was fined $68,000. Two Los Angeles radio stations KDAY and KDEY-FM simulated an emergency alert signal during a morning show promotion and were fined $67,000.

This is not the first time a regulator has gone after "The Walking Dead." When a stuntman died under the watch of "The Walking Dead" in 2017, OSHA in early January hit them with a maximum fine for a single severe violation of just $12,675. It only gives higher fines for flagrant, multiple violations and corporations have been fined millions.

The 2004 Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipplegate resulted in a record FCC fine of $550,000 that was later overturned in court. Over 14 years from 1990 to 2004, radio stations were hit with fines of nearly $3 million for indecent material from then-syndicated "The Howard Stern Show." (He is now on Sirius/XM, outside the purview of FCC compliance.)

Since Donald Trump took office, the FCC has not fined a single broadcaster for indecency.

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