Media remain committed when disaster strikes

  • Gerry Brownlee
Civil Defence

A longstanding agreement between Civil Defence Emergency Management authorities and national broadcasters has been renewed and strengthened today, Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

“While the government is working to fast-track new technology like cell broadcasting, it’s important to remember that traditional information channels provide a valuable source of information during emergencies,” Mr Brownlee says.

“During recent events, like the Kaikōura earthquake, the role broadcasters played in keeping people informed was indispensable.”

The Memorandum of Understanding with radio and television broadcasters is activated during significant emergencies in which an immediate risk to personal safety exists.

When activated, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management issues a ‘request for broadcast’ involving a statement which is broadcast verbatim at regular intervals until a cancellation is issued.

The Memorandum has operated since the early 2000s, and is used for significant and fast moving emergencies that require urgent information or advice to be relayed to the public.

“This agreement represents a continued commitment from our broadcasters to play a valuable role in keeping Kiwis safe and well-informed during an emergency, and I thank them for their participation.”

Mr Brownlee says Ministry research shows radio remains the most relied upon source of information during emergencies and is resilient during outages.

“When the power’s out, the phone lines are down and the internet is out, you can still switch on your battery powered or car radio.”

Mr Brownlee also emphasised television’s benefits in being able to display news tickers or closed captions for deaf audiences, which the new agreement has provision for.

Another enhancement to the agreement is additional flexibility in the frequency of messages.

“If a tsunami is two hours away, the broadcasts need to be issued frequently. If it’s fifteen hours away, we can reduce the frequency of broadcasts in the early stages and ramp it up when we need people to start taking action,” Mr Brownlee says.

The agreement also calls upon broadcasters to use their online channels to spread messages to their followers.

Notes to editors:

Party to the Memorandum are TVNZ, RNZ, Three, and the Radio Broadcasters Association.

The Association of Community Access Broadcasters has also joined the agreement.