TV weather's new outlook

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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

Britain's favourite talking point, the weather, will finally get true broadcasting recognition this spring with the launch of a 24-hour cable channel.

The Weather Network will revolutionise the last bastion of 1950s-style programming - the daily forecasts. Viewers will be treated to virtual-reality images, news-style vox pops, and glamorous reporters.

The idea is the brainchild of the The Weather Department, a Birmingham-based company, and Pelmorex, a Canadian media company with weather cable channels in France and Canada.

The new channel's managing director, Gaston Germain, said: "Some of the weather presentations I've seen in Britain are quite good, but there's room to liven them up. They could be more humorous."

Meteorological Office research shows that 80 per cent of people switch on to bulletins five or more days a week, with 41 per cent of television viewers watching forecasts before going to bed. The Weather Network will be delivered by satellite to cable franchises and rotate on a half-hour repeating "wheel", offering world, European and national weather, 90-second features - such as "What causes lightning?" - plus traffic and travel news. There will also be continuous local weather information.

Among the revolutionary elements is the virtual-reality studio, in which the presenter is apparently affected by the weather outdoors.