█ ADRIENNE WILMOTH LERNER
D Notice (defense notice) refers to an alert given by intelligence services or the armed forces to the media, alerting them of sensitive content that could damage national security or defense if reported in part or in whole. In Britain, the system is somewhat voluntary and various media corporations are not obliged to report or refrain from reporting, potentially sensitive issues.
The British D Notice system, the first of its kind, was established in 1912. Later the process was bolstered by the passage of the Official Secrets Act, which defined subjects that are not cleared for public broadcast. The act was intended to prevent information from falling into enemy hands. The notices then pertained to wire transfers, and have since evolved with the progression of technology. Today, D Notices cover media broadcast content via radio, films, television, and the Internet.
The parameters for information requiring a D Notice are straightforward. Defense plans, specific training regimens, and vital troop readiness statistics are discouraged from being broadcast. Reports on the specific operation of intelligence services, defense equipment, ciphers and data security systems are flagged for D Notices, as is the subject of civil defense, and nuclear weapons equipment and testing. The specificity and nature of a given journalistic piece, as well as the time and circumstance during which the report is broadcast, are all considered in the D Notice process. Perhaps the largest factor in the process is what type of media will be airing the piece. Television and film cameras, as well as still photographs, can often reveal more then words alone.
D Notices have again reentered the public consciousness, and are often called DA Notices (defense advisory notices). During the Persian Gulf War, several government and military officials from various nations complained that intense media coverage let Iraq prepare for every American strike. In late 2002, a new rash of D Notices were issued for information coming from military operations in the Middle East. Some journalists hold that D Notices are too often issued for subjects that are merely unflattering to government, rather than a matter of national defense., and thus are a from of soft censorship. On the whole, media companies and individual journalists are increasingly opting out of cooperating with D Notices advisories, when possible. However, there is always the possibility of professional disciplinary action, or legal punishment, such as suspension of broadcasting privileges or a steep fine, for refusal to heed some especially sensitive D Notice warnings.
█ FURTHER READING:
Wilkins, Gus."The DA-Notice Web site-The Official Site of the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee." <http://www.dnotice.org.uk/index.htm> (December 1, 2002).