CBS’ Young Sheldon is facing a possible fine over the use of the emergency alert system tone without proper authorization. According to CNBC, the FCC, who issued the fine, claimed it undermines the use and could cause a possible threat to the public.
The EAS sounds are used during times of disasters and some public service announcements. If you’ve heard the noise, you’d know it. But, by law, it turns out using a modified or real version of the tone is a punishable – or at very least finable – offense.
What’s the big deal?
In a statement by the FCC, they said:
Unauthorized use of the EAS Tones undermines the EAS and presents a substantial threat to public safety.
They went on to mention how it could be a potential threat.
The underlying policy concern is not limited only to potential listener confusion at the moment of the improper broadcast of the EAS Tones; the Commission also has warned that the use of simulated or actual EAS Tones for non-authorized purposes – such as commercial or entertainment purposes – can lead to a dangerous ‘cry-wolf effect’ or ‘alert fatigue.
CBS used the sound effect in their 2018 Big Bang Theory spin-off, Young Sheldon. The tone can be heard in season 1’s A Mother, a Child, and a Blue Man’s Backside. While Sheldon’s fraternal twin, Missy, is watching Looney Tunes, she is disgruntled when a tornado warning appeared on screen and that specific dual-tone sound began playing.
Despite CBS doing what they could by overlapping dialogue over it and pitch shifting the warning’s audio, it’s still close enough that a year down the line, the FCC caught wind of it. The network is forced to pay the $272,000 proposed fine.
Young Sheldon is not special in this way, however. Last month, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live was hit with a fine over the use of the tone. AMC’s The Walking Dead was also fined.