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Changing the weather

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Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 11:56, Monday, 12 October 2009

Changes to Radio 4 weather on the PM blog

For quite some time we've been musing about the weather on Radio 4.

We know it's a very important part of the schedule and I am frequently assailed by listeners who think we don't give it enough attention, are not clear enough or are negligent about their part of the country - and more. Much more.

Last month PM and iPM tried various different ways of doing a weather forecast - and there was a great deal of audience reaction. Peter Gibbs - from the Met Office - was the man at the helm.

From today we are going to try a new way of telling the audience about the weather on PM. The key changes are:

  • Forecasters will use a new standard map of UK weather regions, so the naming of region will be consistent.
  • Cear signposting of each region before each bit of weather information.
  • The forecaster will pick out some major population centres and the narrative will normally flow from South to North (although this will change in the case of major weather disruptions elsewhere).

So - we'd like to know what you think. Respond here or on the PM blog and I will peruse your responses. It's not a vote - and we will have to decide what we think is editorially best - but I will note your applause, abuse, doubts etc. With interest.

  • The changes are previewed on the PM blog and you'll be able to hear the first of the new forecasts at 1757 this evening.
  • UPDATE: less than an hour after the first of the new bulletins the PM blog has already attracted 87 comments about it.


  • Comment number 1.

    New weather was more memorable, I'd say.

  • Comment number 2.

    This evening's weather forecast was very clear, the use of recognisable regional area names made it much easier to understand. The announcer's language was refreshingly relevant and factual, avoiding superfluous additional terms such as "bits and pieces", long may that continue!

  • Comment number 3.

    a wonderful change to the forecast formula! because of my seagoing experience I found the shipping forecast more suitable to understanding the wx forecast, now a system delineating the uk into a more defined format is most welcome; i agree with the comment that the Isle of Man seems to have SUNK!!!!!! PLEASE RAISE IT TO THE SURFACE!!!! otherwise you may incur the wrath of all the inhabitants and which includes that wonderful character -NORMAN WISDOM -; another point which I feel is very relevant, would you be so kind to look into the provision of a BRAILLE MAP FOR OUR NON SIGHTED LISTENERS! whom I'm sure hang onto every word that is uttered! Yet another point:- to interest and encourage the younger generation, why not look into supplying schools with a weather map so that teachers can highlight the subject to their charges! Remember the weather is a national conversation point with just about everyone!
    Cheers and Thanks to everyone at PM

  • Comment number 4.

    I am so sorry that the new weather forecast did not live up to hoped for expectations. Sadly more long winded than ever and no mention of the night time temperatures. Please try again.

  • Comment number 5.

    That map looks very strange, the South East seems to have inherited an awful lot of what used to be "The Midlands" years ago, Bedfordshire and north Hertfordshire is not in the south east. Put it another way, one would never have dreamt of lumping the "Thames" shipping forecast area in with that of "Wight".

    The south east is just that, the south east of England, it's not the Midlands...

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm afraid that I was disappointed with the new weather forecast. The East of England got little mention and Suffolk certainly was forgotten. The forecast this evening jumped all over the place with the only memorable thing being the temperatures

  • Comment number 7.

    Much improved weather forecast, but why start in the south east? Logic says north to south.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is a great move in the direction of common sense - we're getting the weather forecast and not a performance! Let's hope the idea catches on and BBC TV presenters are told to stick to the business of straight forecasting as well.

  • Comment number 9.

    #7. At 1:14pm on 15 Oct 2009, Mangamag wrote:

    "Much improved weather forecast, but why start in the south east? Logic says north to south."

    Logic says start in an area of major habitation, or were the majority of the audience is, it's a fair bet that many more people live and/or listen in the south east than the Shetlands! Had you said Logic says clockwise you might have had a point about starting at '12 O'clock' (which would translate to the North East of Scotland)...

  • Comment number 10.

    I know I am adding my voice late in the day but .....

    What a fantastic change the new forecast is. I understand what is being said, I can switch of for most of it and only listen to the bit about where I live and it is consistent.

    Well done Eddie and team and please do not listen to the whingers on points of view; keep the new format.

  • Comment number 11.

    Excellent idea, should have been done long ago. Hope it will also stop forecasters wasting precious telling us the weather that has already happened - perhaps the Met Office doesn't understand the difference between "forecasting" and "reporting".

  • Comment number 12.

    The new weather format is spot on, it's much easier to follow.

  • Comment number 13.

    Quite simple really. If you can see Golcar (pronounced Go-ker) it's going to rain - if you cannot see Golcar it's raining.

    Joking apart I've yet to understand why we need two minutes to cover the weather in the UK. Other media outlets can give out all the needed information in less than thirty seconds the BBC should tell the Met Office they want the same script.

  • Comment number 14.

    'Cear signposting' Pardon ?

  • Comment number 15.

    One week in and so far so good the new weather forecast is far better it should be rolled out across the network.

  • Comment number 16.

    PM I just heard the end of your discussion on Friday about starting achool at 6.
    I want to make the point that this is so much bigger an issue than just whether children learn a bit more or less science etc, which is what the Government decision seemed based on.
    Children at about 6 1/2 generally reach a different stage of development and become keen to learn and can understand the concept of acquiring knowledge. This is why nearly all countries have this as the age to start formal learning.
    When a child starts school at 4 it is doing what it is told to please parents and teachers but very often the subjects seem difficult and therefore boring because they are not ready for them. A teacher friend who taught 7/8 year olds all her career told me that by 8 more than 2/3rds of the class were fed up with school and bored with learning, and had lost interest.
    My children were at school overseas and all started at about 6 1/2. I saw the great advantage to them of having the years before that to firstly develop well physically by playing, climbing jungle gyms etc, of socialising and learning how to get on with others and share, and of having time to discover who they were, get confidence in themselves,enjoy life and learn to be creative.
    I myself was lucky enough to come back to England and starrt school just before I was 7. My mother had informally taught me to read for a few months before that to prepare me. L remember clearly spending my first year reading a range of interesting books while the class was still intoning '"Come and see the dog, Janet" said John.' etc.etc.
    This was I think less my ability than the fact that I learnt when I was ready to, and never had the feeling it was difficult. I found learning exciting and didn't find I'd missed anything.
    I don't think it is far-fetched to see the early start as contributing to a lot of social problems in the UK ie:-
    Boys performing worse than girls
    Adults being passive and lacking vitality and confidence
    Problems with socialising
    Children feeling alienated from society
    Children being unfit and unhealthy
    Children suffering stress.
    I think the sooner the age is changed the better and I am thrilled to hear that at least Welsh children will benefit from this.

  • Comment number 17.

    The new weather forecast works! So much easier to follow and to concentrate on - the region is given clearly, as is the timescale covered and the actual forecast. No more confusion about whether '...and tonight in the south west...' refers to south west Scotland if the daytime weather has just been given for Scotland, or to south west British Isles as a whole. No more distraction with flowery descriptions which would be great in a short story, but which do not help when we want concise detail and accuracy in a brief forecast.

    Well done and thank you. Please keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree the weather forecast is much improved by splitting the country into separate area forecasts which are relevant to people living in them. The choice of areas seems reasonable too - a combination of political boundaries and climatic areas.

    Just one niggle - we were told that the forecast would be "from south to north", yet it starts in the South East! There are parts of the South West much further south than that. Furthermore the weather tends to come from the SW, so starting there would be more useful meteorologically, as well as heading off the allegations of Metropolitan bias that will come if you keep it like this. It will do Londoners good to have to listen to something about the rest of Britain while waiting for their own forecast. They may even discover we exist.

  • Comment number 19.

    Whilst this new style weather forecast seems to work on (the, in my opinion, dumbed down) PM programme - oh for the wisdom and wise words of William Hardcastle, Derek Cooper and even Valerie Singleton, never mind a proper signature tune - I would not wish it to be used either R4 or BBC wide, a more general weather UK-wide forecast has it's place, but to inflict this on the majority (who are probably quite happy with the existing overview style forecast) especially when it's so relativity easy to find location specific forecasts these days. This new forecast format should be at set times during the day and the exception rather than the norm, just like the shipping forecast.

    the BBC could perhaps provide the same sort of opt-in/out, having the detailed area forecast on LW and the UK-wide forecast on FM?

  • Comment number 20.

    I very much prefer the new format of the weather. It's much easier to know when they're talking about my area than the old higgledy-piggledy approach.

  • Comment number 21.

    Just a thought, if people want "My Area" forecasts (such as @ #20) wouldn't it be better for them to listen to a local radio station (or use the internet) and not rely on a national station, has it not occurred to the supporters of this experiment that many people do just want a 'broad brush' weather forecast lasting a minimum of time.

    This is the BBC radio Four blog, please do not change your normal weather forecasts, if a dumbed down PM programme wants to make it's audience feel 'included' then that is up to them - what ever keeps the audience I suppose - for the rest of the population, if we want a regional weather forecast then we can easily tune to out BBC local radio station, or if out of the area we need a forecast for we can use the internet.

  • Comment number 22.

    Weather report. An excellent change for the better and thank you for the consultation. As an ex weather man - Peter knows where - I appreciate a logical sequence and the temperature in the early hours of the morning.

  • Comment number 23.

    I very much appreciate the new style forecast, particularly as I live on a border as far as weather forecasts concerned. One suggestion. Could Laura Tobin be asked to slow down a bit. She does tend to gabble.

  • Comment number 24.

    The new weather forcast is much clearer. Please continue its use.

  • Comment number 25.

    The forcast was much as before - gabbled through at 100 miles per hour to give time for trails.

  • Comment number 26.

    I thoroughly approve. The clear, logical approach by area means that you can work out which bits apply to your own area. Tonight's forecast was especially good because of the pauses and "moving on to ..."s. I used to almost scream at the radio when the sequence was so unpredictable. Sometimes they'd cover the overnight conditions for everyone before moving on to tomorrow's weather, and sometimes they'd do the whole 24 hours by region, or worse still describe how a front moved across the land, listing each town it piddled on.
    Like many I suspect, I listen to the forecast while driving. If you're the forecaster, imagine you're in the car approaching me round the bend. Do you want me trying to decode Laura Tobin's confused gabble, or do you want me calm and ready for emergencies?

  • Comment number 27.

    The new weather forecast is more impersonal and more readily understandable. a big improvement

  • Comment number 28.

    Much improved information. The east midlands often has different weather to the west midlands and often needs to be separated. Time allowed forecast is often too short and some forcasters clutter forecast with too many unnecessary words - namely Dan Corbett and Rob Mcelwick.

  • Comment number 29.

    We live in a coastal situation. I wonder how many other people in our position place more reliance on the Shipping Forecast than on the new, but not necessarily so much better, general forecast

  • Comment number 30.

    I found the Regional Accents cue very effective - my ears pricked up when I heard the Westcountry burr.
    Yet if I was about to visit Scotland I should be conscious of listening out for a Scots accent.
    I think that this idea is inspirational.

  • Comment number 31.

    Thanks for all your useful comments. Adding comments here to those on the PM blog there have been well over 200 on the proposed changes to Radio 4 weather forecasts - almost all positive, although one commenter, BrianH, does say:

    "I love PM. I love your hard, fair and humorous style. But I've never been so bored as I am by PM's constant obsession with the weather. Please, PLEASE, can we obsess about something else? ANYTHING else!"

    Radio 4's trial of the new weather format continues today. Watch this space.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog


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