Changes To The BBC's Weather Forecasts

 by Martin Belam, 27 May 2005

I'm sure the press tomorrow will be full of the news issued by the BBC's Press Office today that from Saturday 28th there will be changes to the new weather presentation introduced a fortnight ago by 'Project Storm'.

The BBC will introduce a change to the perspective of its new 3D weather map after carefully assessing feedback from viewers.

The move follows comments from viewers that the map gave too much prominence to the southern part of the country.

The change to the 'tilt' of the map will allow viewers to see more of the North of England and Scotland.

Andrew Lane, BBC Weather Manager, said: "We are proud of the new weather map - it is very flexible, and we believe that it provides the clarity and realism that viewers want."

"However, we have always made it clear that we listen to our audiences and our complaints system has had a role in helping us to understand our audiences' concerns."

He added: "The global look of the map naturally makes the bottom of the map appear slightly larger, but we now recognise that the perspective needs changing, and are responding."

It won't affect the homepage, as once the new look online symbols were reduced to the size required, the difference amounted to the odd pixel slightly changing shade. Still, it was nice to see Andrew Lane citing the new Complaints system as having fed into the decision. Already two responses have been published from Andrew at, including yesterday's post:

"Since we launched the new service, we have been closely looking at the comments and complaints we have received.

While we cannot address all these individually, we want people to know that we are listening and that feedback is very important to us.

Although recent audience research shows that most (69%) of those surveyed either preferred the new weather system or like it as much as the old forecasts, we recognise that a number of people have commented or raised concerns about features such as wind speed displays, the colours on the map and its perspective.

We felt some time was needed for viewers to adjust to seeing a different style of forecast, given that this is the first major change for 20 years. But in response to viewers' reactions we are carefully looking at how we can improve some aspects of the new system and are taking into account all the comments we have received before doing so."

That hasn't been the only online contribution to the debate about the new graphics on the BBC site, which includes a lengthy thread on the POV message board. Today The Independent carried a story about a former member of BBC staff posting on the messageboards at

Yesterday the dissenters recruited a high-profile supporter in the form of Mr Teather. The BBC Weather Centre's former boss said the corporation had "got it wrong" and he felt "depressed" by the new-look 3D weather map, which did nothing to enhance understanding.

He posted a message - which later vanished - on the BBC website message boards, saying that the corporation had shown a "wilful disregard for all that we learnt over the past 25 years, and the loss of the clear responsibility the BBC has to its licence-payers". The message - posted at 9.37pm last night - disappeared from the website shortly after it was posted. A BBC spokesman said it was removed to verify the author.


The corporation defended the system, bought from the New Zealand Met Office, saying it had been well received by seven in 10 viewers during audience research.

"This is the first major change to BBC weather since 1985, so it is important to allow viewers time to adjust to seeing a different style of forecast," a spokesman said.

"We are continuing to monitor feedback and if there are opportunities to improve aspects of the system - such as the perspective - we will examine these carefully."

He added that all feedback was welcomed and there was no question that the message had been removed from the website because of its content. "We were seeking to confirm that the author was indeed, as suggested in the message, a 'Previous Weather Centre boss'. This was a temporary measure to ensure that the board was not being misused or was not misrepresenting an individual, in this case a former BBC employee. We think it is appropriate to carry out such checks to maintain the integrity of the message board."

I sympathise with the position of the message board team and the moderators. I'd be furious if someone came onto one of the BBC's message boards and claimed to be me whether I was a current or ex-employee. That is why we have in place across our systems the ability to either allocate staff the position of 'host', or to give them 'star status', to show that they are genuine members of staff or 'on-air talent'.

However, suitably verified as who he claimed to be, John has posted again with a vengeance. In a post titled 'Poor Andrew Lane' he said:

I do feel very sorry for Andrew Lane, in his role as Manager of the BBC Weather Centre. I recruited Andrew into the BBC, and know him well enough to understand that he will be very uncomfortable over the criticism that has been heaped on him personally.

But the criticism is not entirely fair, because when I left the BBC, my post was downgraded from Editor to Manager and Bill Giles's post as the most senior member of the Met Office, downgraded to an administrator. So currently in charge of the Weather Centre there is the senior BBC person with no editorial responsibility and the senior Met Office person who has never broadcast.

The real villain of the piece is the project leader (no names or I will get removed again) who was the main thrust behind the drive to change the colours and drop symbols and the pressure charts. A senior weather broadcaster (no names again) tells me that when he challenged these changes he was told that 'people would get used to them'.

The project leader has no qualifications or experience on which to base these judgements and has risked the whole justification for public service broadcasting by his ill-informed ideas.

John Teather, Former Editor of the BBC Weather Centre

I wouldn't be surprised if that featured in tomorrow's press coverage either.

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