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

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

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.


React Now

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

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
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?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?