Viacom, ESPN fined $1.4 million for running ads with emergency alert tones

The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that it has fined Viacom and ESPN $1.4 million for running ads that used the Emergency Alert System warning tone to promote the 2013 movie "Olympus Has Fallen," about a terrorist attack on the White House.

The FCC's order claimed that "when Viacom and ESPN (collectively, the Companies) transmitted or caused the transmission of advertisements containing actual EAS tones, they violated the law and jeopardized the essential and exclusive function of the EAS -- to immediately alert the public to an actual emergency."

It is prohibited to broadcast actual or simulated alert signals in non-emergency situations -- with the exception, of course, of those familiar tests on TV.

The FCC statement said that in March of 2014, after investigating reports that the "Olympus Has Fallen" trailers used the tone, it proposed a total fine of $1.93 million against NBCUniversal, ESPN and Viacom for running the ads. NBC paid its fine, but ESPN and Viacom fought back.

FCC denied their arguments for a reduced fine. The court filing states that Viacom broadcast the trailer on seven cable networks a total of 108 times, and that ESPN ran it 13 times across three channels. They are being fined $1.12 million and $280,000, respectively.

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com