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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Medical staff members burn clothes belonging to patients suffering from Ebola, at the French medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Monrovia  

The reality of Ebola: Buckets of chlorine in the streets, and no one shakes hands any more

Patrick Jamiru
Good2Go is the sexual consent app  

Good2Go: It's proper Sex and Relationships Education that will help end assault, not an iPhone app

Sian Norris
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?