Swedish Radio’s role during crises and emergencies

13 September 2021

Public broadcaster Swedish Radio plays a critical role during times of crisis and emergency

Swedish Radio (SR) has a specific ‘emergency mission’ as part of its public service mandate, which ensures that it conveys important information to the public ‘during societal disturbances and crises’ and advises them on how they can protect themselves. Key mechanisms of its emergency system are the important message to the public (VMA) and the ‘Hesa ​​Fredrik’, which turn 35 and 90 years old this year respectively.

The VMA operates via a specific process. An authorised person will request a VMA via an SOS alarm – this is predominantly in the case of a fire. If approved, SR’s broadcasting management team will formulate the message, which includes information about the incident, and is broadcast across all SR channels. The message is also shared with other media organisations, including Swedish Television (SVT) and is available via SR’s ‘Play’ app and online. Typically, between 40-50 VMA messages are sent out every year. The ‘Hesa Fredrik’ is a siren which, if heard outside of its usual testing times, alerts the public to take precautionary actions such as remaining indoors, shutting doors and windows, and listening to SR’s emergency channel, P4, to keep updated.

Find out more: VMA – important message to the public

How the VMA works. Credit: Swedish Radio

It is especially useful that SR is stationed in approximately 50 locations around Sweden. This means that emergency broadcasts can reach the public across the country, regardless of where the incident originates. In Sweden’s unprecedented forest fires in the summer of 2018, 21 VMAs were sent out. They were also utilised during a big forest fire in 2014.

These anniversaries provide several important reminders. They demonstrate the central role and value that public media contribute to society – that the public can rely on them for timely, trusted and sometimes life-saving news and information. That collaboration between like-minded organisations and authorities is crucial during times of crises. But also, the need to innovate to keep costs down and reach audiences on the platforms they use most.

Swedish Radio is a member of the Public Media Alliance