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Jimmy Kimmel Is in Trouble With the FCC for Using Emergency Alert Sounds

The FCC fined ABC $395,000 after a "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" sketch used emergency alert system sounds three times.

by Bettina Makalintal
Aug 16 2019, 3:55pm

Photo: Randy Holmes via Getty Images

Last night, late night host Jimmy Kimmel was named by local committee members as the first honorary mayor of Dildo, Newfoundland—which yes, is a real place—after running uncontested for the community's, uh, largest honor. While it's not clear that will actually entail for Kimmel, it seems safe to say that the comedian probably won't have much to do with executive action.

In the United States, meanwhile, Kimmel is in hot water for overstepping on things reserved for the actual government. After the government sent out presidential alert tests to every single cell phone in the United States in October, the comedian riffed on the unavoidable buzzing and beeping in a late night sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, using emergency alert system (EAS) tones three times on the night of October 3. Those tones, however, are reserved for the government's use. Because of that sketch, ABC must now pay a $395,000 penalty, per a statement by the Federal Communications Commission yesterday. The argument, of course, is that EAS tones are protected in the case of actual emergencies.

Kimmel's fine was the largest, but the late night host wasn't alone, Deadline reports. AMC earned a $104,000 penalty for two uses of EAS tones in a February episode of The Walking Dead. Discovery's Lone Star Law, meanwhile, picked up a $68,000 penalty for broadcasting actual alert tones in footage of Texas Game Wardens during Hurricane Harvey.

Cracking down on false alerts might not be the most unreasonable idea: In January of last year, an emergency management services worker mistakenly sent out a missile threat alert to every single cell phone in the state, prompting widespread panic.

For those craving that sweet, sweet beep sound, you can still attempt to watch 10 straight hours of emergency alert sounds on YouTube. But filming it might not be the best idea.