Recent signalling models have shown that honest, cost-free communication between relatives can be stable. Moreover, cost-free signalling equilibria are in some cases more efficient than costly equilibria. However, we show that they are also relatively uninformative, particularly when relatedness between signaller and receiver is low. We explore the trade-off between signal cost and information, and further demonstrate that incorporating competition among signallers into a model of communication between relatives can reduce the propensity of any one signaller to display. As a result, there is a general increase in the amount of broadcast information in a non-costly signal with increasing competitor number. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.