Movie Trailer Gets Viacom, NBCU and ESPN Fined $1.9 Million by the FCC — Here’s the Trailer

Mar 3, 2014  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission is calling for fines totaling $1.9 million against the TV companies Viacom, NBCUniversal and ESPN, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq. The problem surrounds a trailer the companies aired about a year ago, in March 2013, for the feature film "Olympus Has Fallen." The spot can be seen below.

"The trouble with the film’s advertisement, according to the FCC, is that it contained sounds reminiscent of the ‘Emergency Alert System,’ a national public warning system," THR reports. "The FCC says that ‘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.’"

The companies have reportedly admitted airing the commercials with the EAS tones, but have challenged whether they’re liable, citing Section 325(a) of the Communications Act of 1934.

"The media regulatory agency wants to punish Viacom in the amount of $1.12 million for 57 airings of the commercial, NBCU in the amount of $530,000 for 33 airings and ESPN in the amount of $280,000 for 13 airings," the story reports.

The article adds: "According to the FCC’s notes about the $1.9 million fine, word was circulating in the television industry by March 6 about the EAS Tones in the ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ trailer. The following day, the matter had been brought to the attention of the MPAA, the National Cable Telecommunications Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. NBC says that with one exception, it stopped running the commercial that day."

The FCC said: "The Companies argue that it was clear from the context that the ‘No Surrender Trailer’ was an advertisement for a movie, and that no viewer could reasonably interpret the tones heard therein as related to an actual emergency," according to the report. But the agency adds that "enforcement of Section 325(a) of the Act is not conditioned on proof of deception or harm."

Here’s the trailer:


  1. To the “companies” that argued that this “was an advertisement for a movie, and that no viewer could reasonably interpret the tones heard therein as related to an actual emergency,” I believe those tones are referred to as attention signals to alert viewers that a potential emergency message is forthcoming. They were misused in the ad to get viewers to pay attention to the ad. Inappropriate use of the alert tones is not new, there have been a number of documented cases and the spot should have been rejected because of the tones. You “companies” screwed up so quit whining, pay your fines and don’t do it again.

  2. That was actually a pretty cool spot. I like how they used the tones. HOWEVER, any engineer that OK’d that spot to air on any TV station is a complete idiot. They were probably undertrained interns / ingest monkeys that the networks were using to save money. Well guess what? Their penny pinching just cost them a cool $1.9 million. They could have employed a bunch of professional experienced technicians for that much and had money left over, with no fines to pay. Hope it was worth it. I wonder how much they pay the bean counters who tell them to use inexperienced low paid “warm bodies.”

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