British broadcasters mount ‘Operation London Bridge’ as Elizabeth’s death is confirmed

The death of Queen Elizabeth II, announced at 6:30 p.m. London time, triggered a series of mostly pre-planned broadcasts across British broadcasters.

The plan, called “Operation London Bridge” (code name “London Bridge Is Down”), triggered a series of events within the royal halls when the queen died that included preparing alerts to go out to British media and other outlets around the world.

In a bit of modern irony, this included sending a tweet with the announcement at 6:30 p.m. local time.

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The U.K.’s iconic BBC One had already switched over to rolling coverage of the queen’s health, which was reported just hours before her death as being concerning.

When the official announcement was made, legendary presenter Huw Edwards was at the main anchor desk in Studio E, dressed in mostly black — as is customary in the U.K. when a monarch dies.

According to plan and tradition, the network read a statement about the Queen’s death before showing a fullscreen image of the royal coat of arms and followed by an elegant photo of Elizabeth while “God Save the Queen” played under it (American viewers will recognize the melody as being similar to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”).

ITV News and Sky News followed similar procedures, having also been in rolling coverage of the queen’s health.

The death will trigger a series of key events to continue the line of the monarchy, including various ceremonies and formalities culminating with the coronation of King Charles III.

According to reports, many of the major British media outlets have been long prepared for the death of the queen, having even rehearsed coverage using a pseudonym. It’s not uncommon for news organizations to have prepared obituaries, graphics and other content ready to air, perhaps with some minor adjustments, of notable figures.

At least as of 2007, part of the plan reportedly included using blue signal lights connected to the country’s Radio Alert Transmission System to give broadcasters a heads-up that the news was coming so they could cease airing anything that might not juxtapose well with the death of a monarch.

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