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The shipping forecast vs The Ashes on Radio 4 LW

England's Ashes victory in Australia in 2011

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We had a long discussion yesterday, considering various tactics for avoiding a possible clash between the late night Shipping Forecast and the end of the last Test Match. Could we only carry it on FM and DAB? That wouldn't work for mariners far from land as they rely on the carrying power of Long Wave. Could we move the Forecast, holding off until the last wicket fell, whenever that might be? We do occasionally delay a forecast but this requires us to give at least 6 hours notice of its new position. It was impossible to know when the match would end and therefore impossible to schedule a delayed forecast.

What the cricket needed - but we could not provide - was flexibility: the forecast provides vital safety information and has to go out at a predictable time. After much debate we decided we had to stay with the planned schedule and hope for the best. In the event the best happened, from the point of view of English cricket, but not for Long Wave listeners who may have missed the final, euphoric moment.

The commentary team were careful to warn that the forecast was about to begin and point to opportunities to listen elsewhere. Happily, the final 90 minutes of coverage was carried uninterrupted not only on digital services but also on 5 Live, so accessible to analogue radios. We regret the heartache caused to some listeners but hope they will understand our dilemma and that their irritation will be assuaged by the joy of a historic victory.

Denis Nowlan is Station Manager at BBC Radio 4

  • Catch up with all of the BBC's coverage of England's Ashes victory on the BBC Sport webs site.
  • The TMS blog brings together posts by commentators and producers.
  • Head of Speech Radio Interactive Andrew Caspari wrote about TMS coverage on the Radio 4 blog in November.


  • Comment number 1.

    One particularly apt truism for the incident on R4 LW last night was "worse things happen at sea" which was certainly the case when listeners were denied the coup de grace despite being given multiple warnings and advice that the Shipping Forecast was about to interrupt their cricket. No-one could have been more delighted than I with the successful Ashes outcome but the real time commentary was hardly the key to England's performance.

  • Comment number 2.

    2. For the sheer sake of pedantry, could you tell us if there was in fact any dangerous weather round any of our shores or shipping areas?

  • Comment number 3.

    CharlieMudlark, not being a mariner (nor a meteorologist!) I'm uncomfortable providing judgements on the weather at sea but you can, of course, listen to the forecast again and judge for yourself!

    Steve Bowbrick, blogs editor

  • Comment number 4.

    I have this image of that rare thing - a cricket mad sea captain, sitting there as the waves built up...and knowing the one wicket could be masked - torn, knowing he has to hear Finisterre, and also knowing the weak and wobbly night time radio 5 medium wave transmission.
    So he tires to judge the timing, winding the tuning button frantically as soon as his area is covered buy the forecast...

    long wave cricket fans have to shut up about this one - most fishing boats are not more interested in cricket than knowing if they need to turn away from a storm...

  • Comment number 5.


    There was indeed dangerous weather. The beginning of the forecast lists those sea areas for which a gale warning is in effect, meaning a warning of severe and potentially dangerous. On this occasion, gale warnings were in effect for 11 sea areas, which is a lot.

    The Met Office shows this graphically on their website here: This shows the current forecast; the situation has worsened since last night's forecast in question.

  • Comment number 6.

    I feel sorry for the poor sailors who were huddled round their radios listening closely to the final balls being bowled only to have their coverage interuptted. They did not have the flexibility to switch to 5LSX

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree. Weather was dangerous. Forecasts also listed several area's.

    @Greavsie: Nice info there at Metoffice.

    Wind Cyclonic 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later.Sea StateRough or very rough. Weather Rain or snow. Visibility Moderate.


  • Comment number 8.

    Quite interesting that Radio 5 used this to their advantage though - as they did in the previous test too - by using their own commentator (Mark Pougatch) rather than the TMS feed.

  • Comment number 9.

    The point seems to be being missed: is there any need to broadcast the shipping forecast at all? My suspicion is that it is part of some archaic public service charter that the BBC relies upon to bolster it's arguments for taxing us to listen to the radio and watch tv.

    Do the maritime community rely on this at all? Listen to it even?

    I suggest that in this age of GPS and the Internet all sea going vessels have ample means of finding the weather; it may even be compulsory that they carry such equipment.

    If someone can confim that some seagoers do indeed rely on the shipping forecast as the sole means of getting their weather then I accept that it has to be broadcast. But that brings me to the second point: why on Radio 4 Long Wave when there are thousands of digital channels, not to mention the Internet that could be used?

    This is clearly the usual arrogance of the BBC, mired in a bygone age where it is used to dictating what an audience will hear and no one will question it. You can tell it from the language of this blog as well: "but this requires us to give at least 6 hours notice of its new position". Don't people think "outside the box" at the BBC? Who dictates that 6 hours notice should be given: the powers that be at the BBC? The Government? Some quango?

    Point is that sentence should be " but this requires us to give at least 6 hours notice of its new position, which we acknowledge is absurd so we will be getting this changed....". But I bet no one there ever even thought of any so "radical".

    As you can tell I have a much wider anger at this than just missing the end of a Test Match. Principally it is this: I am forced to pay to listen to the BBC, you interrupt a program I (and a large audience) enjoy to inflict on me a really boring and inconsequential (to me) broadcast (aimed at a minority audience) regularly. If you were a normal broadcaster relying on advertising revenue where would that business model get you?

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim091 - the shipping forecast is broadcast on the BBC broadly as a back up for when satellite and internet connections go down. Also there are many smaller craft that don't have internet or GPS and rely completely on the broadcast. I wrote a book about the shipping forecast and most of the mariners I spoke to told me they rely on the radio broadcast to a great extent.
    I'd imagine the six hours' notice are necessary because the forecasts are broadly six hours apart: you'd have to announce the change of time during the previous forecast or vessels would have no way of knowing that the time has been changed if they're just tuning in for the shipping forecast.
    By the way, strictly speaking you're not actually forced to pay to listen to the BBC - the licence is for television: the BBC's radio output is free.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well said Tim091. Of course the interruptions don't only relate to the Shipping Forecast. At 8.30am we have to listen to "Yesterday in Parliament" and at 9.45am it's time for "The Morning Service". Whilst this winter these programmes only interrupted the Perth test, when England are playing on the sub-continent or South Africa then we have frequent disruptions. Like many listeners,I'm driving to work at 8.30am and quite why Yesterday in Parliament cannot be delayed is beyond me. Come on BBC, sort it out!!!


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