The Federal Communications Commission has ordered ABC to fork over $395,000 for using the “emergency alert” tone in a sketch making fun of the crisis-warning system that surprised, annoyed, and alarmed thousands of American cellphone users last October.
On October 3 more than 100,000 mobile devices across the country shrieked with a uniquely strident ringtone and flashed the text message: ““Presidential Alert. THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The message was actually sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but so many people were upset at the idea of Twitter maniac Donald Trump texting them whenever he felt bees in his hair that FEMA was forced to quickly quell those fears.
“You would not have a situation where any sitting president would just wake up one morning and attempt to send a person a message,” FEMA official Antwane Johnson said at the time. “The system is very well-governed and rooted in law in terms of its intended use.”
Still, Kimmel was inspired to poke fun at the idea that Trump could reach out and touch you personally. He aired a trailer for a fake movie called The Textening, which used the emergency tone three times. Unbeknown to Kimmel, and pretty much everyone else, that annoying noise is proprietary. So now ABC has to pay.
A network rep told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, “ABC takes regulatory compliance seriously, and we are pleased to have resolved this issue.”
ABC isn’t alone. AMC is going to pay out $104,000 for using the tone in an episode of The Walking Dead, and Discovery is on the hook for $68,000 after it accidentally recorded the noise during a real emergency and then included it on an episode of the reality series Lone Star Law.
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