Emergency Broadcasting

The request was successful.

Dear Office of Communications,

What broadcast provisions are in place in the United Kingdom, in the event of an emergency? An emergency could include a severe weather warning (such as in the event of a hurricane, flooding, etc.), a terrorist attack, a child abduction emergency or the outbreak of war. Are there broadcast provisions in place that allow civil authorities to override broadcasts (either through radio or television) to broadcast emergency information for the aforementioned examples given? If such facilities are in place, are these on a regional basis or do they exist purely on a national level (i.e. as a singular entity)?

If such a facility is not in place, are there plans to implement such a system in the future? If there are, would this allow for the overriding of broadcasts, either by radio or television, by civil authorities?

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Slingsby

Information Requests, Office of Communications

Dear Mr Slingsby,

Thank you for your request to Ofcom. You asked:

“What broadcast provisions are in place in the United Kingdom, in the event of an emergency? An emergency could include a severe weather warning (such as in the event of a hurricane, flooding, etc.), a terrorist attack, a child abduction emergency or the outbreak of war. Are there broadcast provisions in place that allow civil authorities to override broadcasts (either through radio or television) to broadcast emergency information for the aforementioned examples given? If such facilities are in place, are these on a regional basis or do they exist purely on a national level (i.e. as a singular entity)?

If such a facility is not in place, are there plans to implement such a system in the future? If there are, would this allow for the overriding of broadcasts, either by radio or television, by civil authorities?”

There is a licence requirement in broadcast licences to comply with any direction given by the Secretary of State. This applies under section 336 of the Communications Act, where the Secretary of State directs Ofcom to service a notice directing the licensees to broadcast something specific. We do not have any record of this being used to date.

We would suggest that you contact the Department for Culture, Media and Sport directly if you need any further details on emergency communications policies.

Kind regards,
Jenny

Information Requests
Ofcom

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