I was recently reading a BBC News article regarding the 1989 Kegworth Air Disaster. In the embedded video in the article, I noted that the title card preceding the news bulletin used the term News Flash. While I'm aware that News Flash was at one time the choice term to describe a currently-unfolding news story, I'm also aware that the currently-preferred term (at least in the UK media) is now Breaking News.

To use the September 11th 2001 Terror Attacks as another example of a major developing news story at a future point in time, Breaking News had become the term of choice for both BBC News and Sky News in the UK. Subsequently it's fair to assume that the term Breaking News fell into favour during the 1990s, presumably alongside the advent of 24 hour rolling news coverage.

I was wondering if anyone else could provide some insight as to why the term News Flash was dropped, and at what point in the 1990s this happened.

1 Answer 1


The term "News Flash" was (and still is) used in the UK to describe an interruption to the normal broadcasting. If a very important news story broke during a time when an entertainment or sports programme was being broadcast the programme was interrupted and someone said "we interrupt this programme to bring you a news flash" - this was followed by an announcement of what had happened.

The phrase "breaking news" is, as you say, used on news programmes to indicate something that is just happening. It is not really an interruption to BBC News or Sky News because they are news programmes.

So a news flash is a news item which interrupts non-news programmes, whereas breaking news is used to describe something just happening in a news programme or channel, which is probably not insignificant but not necessarily important enough to interrupt all other programmes.

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