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Breaking News Interruption

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"This is an ABC News Special Report..."
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On occasion, the broadcasts of television programs will be interrupted. Mainly this is some sort of Emergency Broadcast, but more often than not, it's a piece of breaking news that is being reported. The channel will usually cut into whatever show is playing with coverage by their news arm of whatever event is happening. Another variation on this trope is running a news banner during the program announcing a piece of breaking news without interrupting the actual show, a common sight on Japanese networks.

This trope is frequently used by major broadcast networks, and is rarely, if ever, done by non-news cable networks.

Compare to Commercial Pop-Up, when a channel uses a pop-up to advertise a show. When a news program is interrupted for breaking news, that's This Just In!.


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Examples:

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    In general 
  • This also happens whenever Royals die in the UK; Normal programming is either interrupted by the picture of the Union Jack and sombre music, or a message telling viewers to change to a news channel. Such events are also likely to disrupt regular programming for the rest of the day. Although it wasn't expected, a good example of both this trope and This Just In! is how British Channels responded to the death of Princess Diana.
    • Which is very annoying because after the first hour they had absolutely no new news whatsoever, and because EVERY SINGLE OTHER CHANNEL was telling you to turn to the news channels, you couldn't escape.
    • When Prince Phillip died in 2021, every main British TV channel started to do news specials, which went on days, with normal programming going completely out the window. The BBC received a record number of complaints from viewers about it, to the point where they had to shut down their online complaints form. Other Commonwealth nations didn’t fare much better when they did the same thing - complaints to Australian broadcaster ABC went through the roof when an episode of Vera got cut halfway through for the news special. Apparently, people were more interested in knowing who that week’s murderer was, rather than what had happened to Prince Phillip.
  • Obviously happened on September 11, 2001. You can find plenty of footage on YouTube; it's especially eerie to see how "normally" the day started. Some regular programs took days to come back on the air.
    • UPN was a noteable example, as programming ran normally until 12PM, when the ending of the program Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus got interrupted for news coverage on the day's events.
  • In the early morning hours of June 4, 1989, anyone who was up watching a Turner channel — say, TBS or TNT (which was showing How I Won The War) — was greeted with a special bulletin: "THE AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI IS DEAD."
  • Cable news channels have become infamous for overusing and inverting this trope - MSNBC uses a "Breaking News" graphic for the top-stories update at :38 after the hour in prime time, Fox News once broke in on a live-on-camera interview with a U.S. Senator to show Justin Bieber being perp-walked after a routine court hearing.
  • In Russia, both today and during the Soviet-era, classical music being played on all official channels has become recognizable as shorthand for "something terrible has happened." When Chernobyl happened, all radio played classical music for two days until the official announcement was prepared. During the August Coup in 1991, Soviet television played Swan Lake on repeat.
    • The Swan Lake moment was later emulated by independent Russian TV station TV Rain in protest of Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Rather than give in to censorship from the Kremlin, they went off the air by ending their final broadcast with Swan Lake.
    • This tends to be standard practice for totalitarian regimes. When it came time for the Nazis to announce the catastrophic defeat at Stalingrad, they replaced all regular programming with Anton Bruckner's Seventh Symphony before announcing the Sixth Army's fate.
    • In her autobiography about surviving the Rwandan genocide, Esther Mujawayo wrote that she associated Classical music with political upheaval since the national radio network used this music each time a coup occurred.
  • Many Japanese networks often use banners called "telops" showing the name of the station's news department, followed by text indicating a piece of breaking news note  rather than interrupting the program most of the time. This is common on anime and children's programming, but some other programs use it too. The most infamous use of a news banner happened in 2016, when a news ticker about the drug possession trial for retired baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara was shown during an episode of Aikatsu!. The ticker was notable for not only upsetting child viewers due to the subject matter (as recreational drugs are highly taboo in Japan), but also the adult fanbase and even the director of the show itself.
  • This often happens during major snowstorms, at least on the East Coast of the United States. Usually, networks will interrupt their programming for the local news half of the network to cover the progress of the storm and its aftermath. For instance, when an unexpected snowstorm hit during rush hour in New York City in November 2018, WABC spent most of the afternoon and evening airing news coverage of the traffic jams the storm caused, pre-empting all programming up until 7:30PM except for ABC World News Tonight, meaning that Jeopardy! did not air that evening.
  • On March 16, 2020, all of the Big 4 broadcast TV stations in the United States (CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX) suspended their shows from 10:00AM EST until 12:30PM EST for news coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Another interruption occurred later in the day around 3:30PM EST. This would continue every day since then, making it the first time since the September 11th attacks where regular programming was constantly interrupted for breaking news every single day, if not more frequently than that incident.
    • Downplayed when the president gave a speech on the situation on March 29th, 2020 at 6:00PM EST, since at the time, all four major stations were playing their evening news programs.
    • Notably, there have been times when local TV stations interrupted the daily White House briefings to cut to their local state or city government's own daily briefing, basically interrupting another interruption. It goes even further Up to Eleven if the state government begins their briefing before the city government does (assuming the state and city governments do not share a briefing together).
    • Since March 13, 2020 (three days before the United States did this), most Canadian TV networks used to be interrupted at 11:00 ET due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the country on the pandemic.
      • For example, CBC would interrupt either the very end of an episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood or the very start of an episode of True and the Rainbow Kingdom where one of the CBC Kids puppets, Gary the Unicorn, told kids that there will be some special grown up programming (the special programming being Trudeau's daily address of course) and Global would air news coverage during Tamron Hall's time slot.
    • As of March 23, 2020, ABC has replaced Strahan, Sara and Keke with a daily program covering the pandemic.
    • Another notable pandemic interruption was the May 8, 2020 one, as it had interrupted the Saturday Morning Kids’ Show blocks of CBS, ABC and NBC (which were airing Ocean Treks With Jeff Corwin, Best Friends Furever with Kel Mitchell, and Vets Saving Pets, respectively) nationwide for the first time since the aformentioned Horseland incident.
  • Aside from regular programming being pre-empted for congressional hearings and impeachment trials, PBS is well-known for averting this trope. Most, if not all, affiliates of the network will continue to air regular programming even as other broadcast stations air breaking news.
    • There was at least one time when this trope happened to a PBS station. During the September 11th attacks, several New York TV stations' transmitters went out as the World Trade Center, the place from which they were broadcast, collapsed. WLIW, the PBS affiliate for Long Island, NY, had to suspend regular programming as a result in order to allow NBC to continue broadcasting.
      • History would then repeat itself during the coronavirus pandemic, when WLIW pre-empted the entire PBS Kids block to show school-related programming thanks to most public schools in the region being closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, beginning on May 4, 2020, sister station WNET pre-empted the first slots of the day for Sesame Street and Pinkalicious & Peterrific with a show called Let's Learn NYC.
    • At least one PBS affiliate interrupted their airing of the Bookworm Bunch block to show a tribute program to Fred Rogers after his passing.
  • A standard in the United Kingdom; whenever a BBC channel suddenly stops broadcasting and an announcer says "This is the BBC from London", sometimes coupled with "Normal programming has been suspended", this usually means someone significant has died — such as a Royal or the incumbent Prime Minister — or that something terrible has happened or is happening. In 2013, The BBC received a large number of complaints after it interrupted a rerun of Mrs. Brown's Boys with the news of Nelson Mandela's death.
  • A common non-news example of this trope: after the incident widely known by many as the Heidi Game,note  a law was established saying that North American sports matches are required to be aired until their conclusion. This in turn causes programming to either be pre-empted (the common practice nowadays) or joined in progress, like what happened during the broadcast television debut of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
    • One example of this variant of the trope happening to a show was when the Halloween-themed edition of Fox's Animation Domination scheduled for air on Sunday October 18th, 2020, which included the 31st installment of the Treehouse of Horror, was preempted at the last second on the East Coast by a forced seventh game of the 2020 MLB NLCS pushing the block till after Halloween on November 1, 2020, since the 2020 World Series aired on Sunday, October 25. Because of the East Coast preemption, the block was replaced with reruns on the West Coast, breaking the longest-running streak the Treehouse of Horror has ever had of actually airing in October. A similar thing would happen a few months later when Valentine's Day themed episodes of the block (that actually had been scheduled for Valentine's Day itself on Sunday February 14), as well as the series premiere of The Great North, were pre-empted by a rain delay on the 2021 Daytona 500.
    • Even cable networks are required to follow this law for sports games. During TBS's second airing of Sherlock Gnomes, a baseball game going overtime pushed the film back 30 minutes and joined it in progress.
      • Something similar happened on the December 4, 2020 airing of Jingle All the Way on the same channel, where the last ten minutes of the film were cut off in order to show an e-sporting tournament.
  • It has been a common practice in the United States since about the 1970's for local TV stations with a news operation to interrupt programming locally if severe weather such as tornadoes occur so the station can cover the bad weather and any threats it may impose. In May of 2019, an angered meteorologist at WSYX in Columbus, Ohio delivered a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the station's viewers who were complaining on social media that the station interrupted the season finale of The Bachelorette for a series of tornadoes in Central Ohio that wound up killing six people.
    • In what is also a case of Life Imitates Art, on July 4, 1977, a tornado touchdown during a series of storms in Southeast Michigan resulted in a series of tornado warning bulletins interrupting broadcasts of the series finale of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (which, coincidentally, has a storyline involving a tornado striking the show's setting of Fernwood, Ohio) and Kojak on Detroit CBS affiliate WJBKnote .
  • The Emergency Alert System in the US. According to That Other Wiki, "in addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes".
    • In 2014, this actually happened... except not. It was a false signal that locked up people's cable boxes and played a message that there was about to be a message from the White House, when actually nothing was happening. It was blamed on a bad code transmitted from a radio program.
    • In some areas, Amber Alerts are also sent this way to the local area, with the alert tones and the scroll across the screen being read.
    • The UK had a somewhat less comprehensive system. In the event of a nuclear attack, all TV channels would broadcast the frequency everyone needed to tune their radios to (that of BBC Radio 4) and then go off the air. So rather than taking over all channels, they would simply turn most of them off. By law, to this day the UK government retains the right to take over the broadcasts of the BBC and ITV in the event of a national emergency, although with the almost non-existent threat of nuclear attack there is no other special system (or at least none that is publicly known) for such an eventuality.
    • Japan in particular has one specifically for major earthquakes, where a chime is played, with a warning message about the incoming earthquake played over it and the original audio, and a blue banner overtakes part of the screen. Given the number of earthquakes hitting the area, it's rather justified.
    • A rather odd "monthly required test" one occured on the cable provider Altice, also known as Cablevision, on July 8, 2021. Unlike most EAS tests, this one lasted for an entire hour, and cable box functions were locked for the entire period.
  • This trope is par for the course with US presidential inaugurations, as all networks (including PBS) will pre-empt their regular programming to show coverage of the inauguration in question.
  • This trope occured when the 2011 Fukushima earthquake hit, with many Japanese channels airing news programming non-stop for at least a week before regular programming resumed. However, TV Tokyo did air the 49th episode of Spellbound Magical Princess Lilpri as scheduled. In addition, all advertising was pulled and public service announcements aired in place of regular television commercials.
    • Other occasions where regular Japanese TV programs were suspended for a week included the death of Emperor Hirohito and the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Outrage ensued from angry parents on social media when NBC interrupted their airing of an American Girl film in favor of a news report on the Trayvon Martin case.
  • This happened twice during the annual airings of The Wizard of Oz in the United States:
    • The February 24, 1974 airing on NBC got interrupted by a special report on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, delaying the movie by a half-hour.
    • The February 24, 1988 airing on CBS was interrupted for a Special Report on a presidental conference, delaying the start time by an hour and a half.
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     Music 
  • On July 20, 1969, a young singer-songwriter named James Taylor was performing a set at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, and had just finished playing his newly written song "Fire and Rain", when organizers stopped the festival to announce to the crowd that the Apollo 11 astronauts had landed on the moon. Taylor never got to finish his set because the festival instead showed the historic live broadcast of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. The 1969 festival was also the last in Rhode Island until the mid-80s, and Taylor didn't return to the festival until 1997. In 2015, Taylor performed an unannounced half-an-hour surprise set at the folk festival that he described on-stage as his make-up for his shortened 1969 set.
  • On December 8, 1980, during a concert in Oakland, California, Stevie Wonder announced that John Lennon had been assassinated, to much shock from the audience.

     Radio 
  • Extant clips circulate of a pro football game and a New York Philharmonic concert, respectively, getting interrupted by news reports about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
  • WGBH's (Boston, MA) live broadcast of a Boston Symphony concert during the shooting of John F. Kennedy was unique in that the conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, broke the news of the assassination himself, instead of WGBH's reporters. After making the announcement to a shocked audience, he and the orchestra played Beethoven's Funeral March.
    • Various audio records of radio stations' initial news bulletins about the assassination exist online. Some who were on the air at the time later recalled that they thought someone was playing a sick joke until they realized it was real and started either continuous news coverage (if the station was a network affiliate) or instrumental or religious music interspersed with news bulletins (if the station was an independent). In Dallas itself, KLIF, a leading, top-rated popular music station, interrupted the song "I Have a Boyfriend" by The Chiffons to report only that shots had been fired at JFK's motorcade, with no word on any injuries. As did most stations, KLIF, after airing its initial reports, then returned to normal programming as the newsroom waited for further bulletins to come in.
  • On February 20, 1971, an Air Force employee tried to send out a test warning, but accidentally sent out an alarm that meant there would be a national emergency. All radio stations were supposed to interrupt their usual programs for an emergency alert. Only one station in Fort Wayne, Indiana did, interrupting The Partridge Family's "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted".
  • In the Congo-Léopoldville, on September 5, 1960, an English lesson on the national radio network was interrupted by official announcement from Prime Minister Lumumba and President Kasa-Vubu dismissing each other.
  • The February 17, 2021 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show opened with Rush's wife announcing that he had passed away that morning from cancer.
  • The IRN radio stations in the UK broke into their normal programming on the day Princess Diana died, broadcasting light instrumental music and ten minute announcements, with extended news bulletins on the hour and half-hour. London's Capital Radio (95.8 FM and Gold 1548) dropped out of the IRN coverage due to the feed coming in over a poor quality telephone connection (complete with beeps over the music), and instead broadcast a combined programme of light classical music with Howard Hughes announcing every ten minutes.
  • About two minutes after the first airplane impact on 9/11, AM news station WCBS in New York went to a regularly scheduled traffic update from its helicopter reporter Tom Kaminski, who instead filed the first radio report of the attack.

     Theatre 
  • Concert example: the Aqours World Love Live: Brand New Wave concert was interrupted after "Brightest Melody" to inform the audience of the 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake and how the show was taking a break to check for damage from it.

     Web Original 
  • Rooster Teeth did this twice, using the news recap show "The Know-It-All" to reveal Monty Oum's hospitalization (and that there would be no videos from Rooster Teeth that weekend), then using "The Know" a few days later to reveal of his passing, again stating that there would be no videos because of it.

     Western Animation 
  • During an airing of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, a news report on the death of Whitney Houston interrupted the program.
  • Nickelodeon, as well as most Viacom networks, interrupted a re-run of the PAW Patrol episode "Pups Save A Baby Humdinger/Pups Save A Pinata" on March 14, 2018 to go off-air in support of the National Walk-Out that day. Parents were not too pleased, which lead to a controversy on Twitter, during which one user had this to say:
    Twitter user: Your kids can miss 17 minutes of PAW Patrol for the 17 families who lost their kids.
  • The first airing of Rugrats on CBS's Nickelodeon-themed Saturday Morning Cartoon block (the episode in question was "Finsterella") was interrupted on some stations halfway through for breaking news about the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. Dan Rather began the report by telling viewers watching to please grab an adult. Some stations did air the episode as originally planned.
  • One rerun of the Horseland episode "The Can-Do Kid" was interrupted by a CBS News discussion on the death of Osama Bin Laden.
  • ABC Kids:
    • Towards the end of a broadcast of The Proud Family on ABC Kids, an ABC News Special Report on Hurricane Charley interrupted the end of show. This is to the point George Stephanopoulos actually tells the children watching to get their parents to come into the room because of the subject matter of the report (it probably didn't work, as most kids probably changed the channel in anger). After the Special Report ended, the network joined Power Rangers Dino Thunder already in progress.
    • The final broadcast day of the block was not seen on the East Coast of the United States due to news coverage of Hurricane Irene pre-empting the entire block that day.
    • On February 1, 2003 an episode of Fillmore! was interrupted midway through by a Special report on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia, with George Stephanopoulos once again informing children watching to get a parent into the room.
    • This happened for weeks on ABC Kids during the 2008 election, usually during The Emperor's New School and The Replacements. These shows would usually be interrupted at random points for news coverage on the election.
  • On April 1, 1980, an airing of Daffy Duck's Easter Special on NBC was interrupted by a NBC News Special Report regarding that year's presidential election cycle. According to the comments section, some kids weren't pleased.
  • On November 25, 1986, the CBS broadcast of "Bugs Bunny's Thanksgiving Diet" was preempted for a half-hour special report on Iran-Contra, "The White House in Turmoil". The previously scheduled airing of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" went on as scheduled.
  • On November 15, 2019 and November 19th, 2019, an hour of PBS Kids programming on PBS stations nationwide was pre-empted for coverage of Donald Trump's impeachment trial. This was not the first time it had happened: in the mid-90's, coverage of congressional hearings interrupted most of the block, causing some affiliates to air it at the end of the day.
    • The second part of the same impeachment trial, occuring from January 21-23rd, 2020, interrupted 5 hours' worth of PBS programming, including several PBS Kids shows, with Curious George, Odd Squad, Dinosaur Train, Nature Cat, Cyberchase and Molly of Denali not airing that day on many PBS stations. Some affilates, including one in Connecticut, decided to air these programs from 5 to 9PM (with a break for The PBS NewsHour in between the first hour and the last three hours) following the trial.
  • A presidental address by Barack Obama pre-empted ABC's original December 1, 2009 airdate for Prep & Landing. As a result, the special was rescheduled to air a week later in the slot that the annual 1-hour presentation of A Charlie Brown Christmas held, which resulted in the latter event being cancelled for the year.
  • This has happened to One Saturday Morning at least three times:
    • The block's premiere was originally intended for on September 6, 1997, but it got pre-empted for coverage of Princess Diana's funeral across all broadcast TV channels, which in turn also pre-empted the premieres of The Weird Al Show and Wheel 2000 on the then-new Think CBS Kids block and The Legend of Calamity Jane on Kids' WB!.
    • The December 19, 1998 airing, which notably contained the Christmas Episode of Recess, was pre-empted by the news that President Bill Clinton had been impeached by the U.S. House.
    • The April 22, 2000 airing was pre-empted by coverage of the raid on the Florida home where Elian Gonzalez was being held by his father.
  • Upon Princess Diana's death in 1997, one British broadcast of the Alfred J. Kwak episode "The Snowman" had the text "For a major announcement please turn to BBC News" on the bottom of the screen.
  • A December 1993 broadcast of the DuckTales episode "A Whale of a Bad Time" in Hungary was cut to announce the death of the then-serving prime minister. The event confused children across the country and became a defining generational moment — they were eventually dubbed the "DuckTales Generation" and became the focus of numerous articles and cultural analyses.
  • On April 19, 1995, the Fox Kids afternoon block (with the Animaniacs episode "Hitchcock Opening; Hearts Of Twilight; The Boids" in progress) was interrupted with President Clinton's address to the country about the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Similarly, the May 6, 1995 airing of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? on Fox Kids was pre-empted for Talkin' It Out With John Walsh, a special about the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • On June 2, 2020, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. interrupted re-runs of The Casagrandes and PAW Patrol to show the Kids' Bill of Rights for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. However, an hour before this, a screen with the text "I Can't Breathe" (which was meant to air on other Viacom networks) accidentally aired for a few seconds before a rerun of The Loud House and a new episode of Hey Duggee.
  • Thirteen minutes into a local broadcast of The Woody Woodpecker Show on September 18, 2001 on WTTG in Washington D.C., the show was interrupted for a White House address on the events of September 11th that lasted for nine minutes before the show resumed.
  • On March 20, 2021, a repeat of the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Eek, An Urchin!" on NHK E-Tele got interrupted for news of a major earthquake in Miyagi prefecture.
    • Similarly, an airing of The Boss Baby: Back in Business episode "Monster Machine" on the same network got interrupted for news of another earthquake in Miyagi prefecture on May 1, 2021.
    • This would happen to SpongeBob again on January 15, 2021 on NHK E-Tele, this time during the episode "Sandy's Nutty Nieces", with the news story in question being the eruption of a volcano in Tonga that lead to tsunami warnings being issued.
  • On April 20, 1999, the premiere of the King of the Hill episode "Revenge of the Lutefisk" was pre-empted in Denver by local coverage of the Columbine massacre. As a result of this association, the episode was banned from rerunning in the area for a while after the incident.
  • In the UK, Channel 5 broke into their children's programming to announce the death of Princess Diana.
  • In 1985, an airing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on WCAU-TV was interrupted during a commercial break for a special report about a suspect in a mall shooting being arrested.
  • On December 2, 2021, airings of Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Toy Story That Time Forgot were preempted for an ABC News special on the Alec Baldwin shooting incident on the set of the movie Rust.

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