The sound of summer that spells SOS
Sunday 24 August 1997
The BBC first broadcast an SOS message in 1923, one year after the Home Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation was founded. A six-year- old boy was missing, and his parents and the police were worried for his safety. The BBC allowed a 30-second broadcast, asking for news of sightings. As a result of reports from listeners the boy was found safe and well. This success, and the apparent willingness of listeners to help, encouraged the BBC to reserve a regular slot for such urgent appeals.
The Home Service's successor, Radio 4, broadcasts about 25 messages a year, with a peak in the summer months when holiday-makers cannot be contacted in any other way. According to a BBC spokesman: "Sometimes there are no SOS messages for weeks, sometimes four are broadcast consecutively. We get them out as fast as we can: it is possible that within an hour of a call coming in, the person who was out of touch will be turning the car around and heading home."
In recent years, the BBC has devised much stricter criteria for broadcasting the SOS messages. They no longer take calls for missing persons, only considering cases where someone is dangerously ill, and a close relative is out of contact. There must also a be a high probability that the person will be listening when the SOS goes out.
The SOS message, like the Shipping Forecast, is one of those Radio Four traditions which enhances its standing as a mouthpiece for the nation. No other national station has reserved airtime for such broadcasts.
- 1 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 David De Gea: Manchester United goalkeeper's £29m move to Real Madrid off - because paperwork 'not done in time'
- 3 Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
- 4 A Chinese journalist has appeared on state television 'confessing' to causing the stock market chaos
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
The man who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for £2.5 billion says it's made him miserable
Nazi 'gold train': Fire engulfs suspected location of vehicle in Poland
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Isis releases graphic video showing four Shia 'spies' being burned alive in Anbar, Iraq
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...
£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...
£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...
£16500 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...