It’s not just the music and radio skits that are bad noise coming from the nationally-syndicated Bobby Bones Show. On October 24th, 2014, the iHeartMedia syndicated morning show broadcast emergency EAS signals (the blaring fax-like sounds) out on their syndicated network, causing sheer panic to transpire in some communities as the signals were rebroadcast on television, showing some television viewers a message saying a national emergency was underway, and to stand by for a message from the White House.
“The station has interrupted its regular programming at the request of the White House to participate in the Emergency Alert System,” the message said in part, and warned viewers to keep telephone lines open for emergency use only. The message was seen by AT&T U-Verse customers in Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Detroit and other locations. Local viewers scrambled to figure out what the emergency was while the warning forced televisions of U-Verse subscribers to tune to one specific channel and wouldn’t allow it to be changed.
The inappropriate tone was discovered to come from WSIX-FM in Nashville—the home of The Bobby Bones Show. The Emergency Alert System was activated during a segment on the show where Bobby Bones was discussing a test of the EAS system during Game 2 of the World Series. As part of the segment, they played a YouTube clip over the air of a 2011 nationwide test of the system which included the tones to activate it and alert others to rebroadcast the signal. When AT&T’s U-Verse system received the signal, it immediately locked down subscriber’s televisions and displayed the warning of a national emergency.
Today, the FCC has fined Bobby Bones’ parent company iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) $1 million for the inappropriate and unauthorized use of the EAS tones. The company has admitted its culpability and has also agreed to institute a three-year compliance and reporting plan and eliminate EAS tones from its production libraries. “The public counts on EAS tones to alert them to real emergencies,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc in a statement. “Misuse of the emergency alert system jeopardizes the nation’s public safety, falsely alarms the public, and undermines confidence in the emergency alert system.”
The Bobby Bones Show has grown into the biggest “country music” radio show ever through iHeartMedia vast radio empire. The show regularly stirs controversy, including high-profile brushups with Kacey Musgraves and Texas country star Aaron Watson.