Terence Blacker: And now the weather... it's turning a bit brighter

At some point it was decided that weather forecasters should be characters

Share
Related Topics

Mysteriously, the BBC weather forecast has come to represent something good and timeless and genuine in a superficial, changing culture. For millions, those moments after the TV news when a nerdy, middle-aged type prances around in front of a map, talking about weather fronts and making bad jokes, has a peculiar emotional importance. It is a matter of weird national pride, almost as if the British invented weather. "There was a time when the BBC weather broadcasters were world leaders," former weatherman Bill Giles has said with all the solemnity at his disposal. Now, with a slow drizzle of predictable clichés (blizzards, gathering clouds, a perfect storm), there are press reports that radical changes are being made to the weather forecast as we know it.

Three weather celebrities, Rob McElwee, Philip Avery and Tomasz Schafernaker, have been invited to leave the studio and spend more time with their charts and the BBC Weather Centre's platoon of presenters is to be slimmed down. There has even been brave, heretical talk of the job being taken away from the specialists, and given instead to professional broadcasters.

Before hysteria breaks out among weather fanatics, it is worth remembering the various illusions which are contained within this peculiarly British institution. Of these, the most bewildering is that the person working from a Met Office script needs to be some kind of expert.

It was not that long ago that newscasters tried to pretend that theirs was a tough, journalistically demanding job. When the laughter died down, it was generally admitted that what was needed was the right kind of face, the ability to read naturally off an autocue, and a talent for adopting the appropriate facial expression for the particular news item being read at the time.

Only in weather forecasting has the idea persisted that the presenter should know what he or she is talking about. Why is this? Is there ever a moment when, mid-broadcast, they have to go off-script and respond instantly to complex data? Do we expect those reading the traffic reports to be able to explain the complexities of how a motorway spaghetti junction works?

There is another, deeper illusion. It is that these men with their interesting accents, their studious little eccentricities and their suburban-dad looks represent an old, 1950s-style ordinariness in the increasingly slick world of modern broadcasting. They could almost live next door to us, we are encouraged to think. They are grounded, normal people – the sort one can imagine being caught in a shower while waiting for a bus.

It is not necessary to recall press stories of the past 10 years, in which the bullying, competitiveness, egotism and vanity of forecasters has been revealed, to see the full absurdity of this idea. In weather, as in other areas, it takes no time for professionals to throw off their academic personae in exchange for the heady pleasures of showing off in front of the camera. At some point, perhaps back in the days of Michael Fish, it was decided that weather forecasters should be characters. Since then, they have worked hard to impersonate ordinariness in a zany, amusing way. As an act, it is as gratingly unconvincing as those Michael Parkinson interviews when he was trying to convince us that he was just an ordinary bloke from Barnsley.

Yet the role of predicting the weather is important. Not only do forecasters provide useful information, they often provide regular companionship to millions. Here, surely, is an area in which it can be accepted without controversy that good looks and a charming, sympathetic manner are an asset. The rich variety of human ordinariness on TV – in looks, accent, age and personality – can be left to specialists and reporters whose unscripted, instant expertise is important.

The weather report, on the other hand, can be written by a Met Office expert and then presented by a personable, good-looking, nicely spoken professional broadcaster, whose main qualification for the job is straightforward. He or she should cheer us up.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager / Sales - UK New Business

£24000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

Recruitment Genius: Time Served Fabricator / Welders - Immediate Start

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fabricator welder required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Under the current rate of progress, the UK will only reduce its carbon emissions by 21- 23 per cent between 2013 and 2025  

The Government's cosy relationship with big energy companies is killing thousands of people

Zachary Boren
 

Not only is Liz Kendall a shy Tory, but her words are also likely to appeal to racists

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific