Natalie Haynes: More chat with the weather forecast, please

The thing is ...
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The Independent Online

The thing is that people talking about nothing is pretty much the most annoying noise in the world. I know that researchers have recently claimed that mewling babies make the most infuriating sound known to man, but that's only because they haven't heard Tim Henman commentating on Wimbledon. Or invested in a soundproofed baby-sized cupboard.

The BBC has had to apologise for its Wimbledon commentary team this week, after receiving more than a hundred complaints about their "over-talking". But when does talking become excessive? It doesn't just depend on the viewer, but also on the commentator. I would cheerfully listen all day to Boris Becker and John McEnroe walk the fine service line between champion's insight and borderline libel. Whatever the BBC pays them, it seems like a bargain to me.

The same is true of weather forecasters, about whom the BBC has also been receiving an unseasonal flurry of complaints. I can take any amount of chattiness from Carol Kirkwood: she has a soothing voice and often wears a jaunty coat, so she can talk about clouds bubbling up as much as she likes. But according to Radio 4's Feedback, people are being driven to fury by weather chat.

Audiences often found the language of weather forecasts impenetrable, citing as an example, "a little ribbon of cloud flirting with the South West". And since ribbon rarely flirts, unless it sees some particularly minxy buttons nearby, who could argue?

People also complained that forecasters were too keen to peg the weather to some mythical social event: barbecues, gardening and picnics. This presumably alienates those of us who don't have a barbecue, a garden, or a penchant for eating scotch eggs near ants. It also alienates those people who did consider a spontaneous devil-may-care outdoor cook-fest, but then caught the forecast and now feel like a tong-wielding cliché.

Most vehemently, listeners objected to being told to take an umbrella out with them when rain was forecast. Which is surely the eye of this storm: people who tune in to weather forecasts want to know whether or not it's going to rain, not how to get dressed if it does. They're listening to Radio 4, for heaven's sake. The Archers has trained them for that.