Saying that a spring 2012 ad for Conan too accurately imitated the Emergency Alert System that never seems to work correctly, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has proposed a $25,000 fine on TBS. The network admits to airing the ad, though it contests the claim it actually included a sound effect from the EAS, or that the spot received any viewer complaints. Though, according to The Hollywood Reporter, TBS also admitted that “due to a quick turnaround," the ad wasn't submitted to standards and practices.
The minimum fine for issuing fake distress signals is $8,000, but the FCC increased the potential fine, saying it was because Conan broadcasts to “approximately 99.7 million television households,” it was "a willful and repeated violation," and because it believes Time Warner can afford the $25,000 bite out of its $14.2 billion in revenue. Let this be a lesson to all rookie television station managers everywhere: Don't forget to remove that "bars and tone" sound from every rerun tape before airing, otherwise some unsuspecting viewer may believe another emergency situation is occurring, and your station will incur a huge fine.