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

Nursery Nurse

£40 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurse needed in salfordI a...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: architecture, suitcases and ‘pathetic figures’

John Rentoul
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape