The Emergency Alert System has struck again, only this time it wasn't used to accidentally order the evacuation of Connecticut, or to close down the entire state of Nevada (oops!). This time, the creaky system of electronic belches (which is intended only to alert the public of natural and man-made disasters) was used to air a Republican campaign ad free of charge on dozens of California radio stations. University of California student-run freeform station KDVS reported the incident and released this recording of the broadcast, as it occurred on their non-commercial airwaves: download MP3
The EAS system is a daisy chain system in which larger regional stations air announcements which are then repeated by smaller stations in their area. In this case, KFBK, a conservative talk station in Sacramento aired its "monthly test" which dozens of smaller stations in that area (including KDVS) are then legally required to re-broadcast. But when you listen to the MP3, you can hear KDVS's programming interrupted by the EAS' electronic belches, which occur not at the beginning of KFBK's test, but just before its conclusion. KFBK then airs a campaign ad for GOP Senatorial challenger Dick Mountjoy, followed by an ad for a bank, and then concludes its test. As a result of KFBK's poor timing, bad training or egregious abuse of the system (take your pick - KFBK blames choice number two), the two ads aired for free over dozens of radio stations in several counties in Northern California the day before the election.
But don't worry, FEMA and the FCC are currently overhauling the EAS system so that it's tests, alerts and fuckups will soon be beamed directly to your cell phone and PDA, instead of using us radio stations as muddling intermediaries.
More info here on the SF Gate blog. Thanks Fatherflot!