Why do BBC weather presenters always stand on the left*?
I suppose the simple answer to that is because it’s were they have been told to stand by the producer. In recent years the BBC presenters have definitely become more animated with their arms and hands gesticulating in an attempt to show the inner workings of any intense storm that comes along, but they always have remained on the left. There’s no comparison these days between the almost static approach of Michael Fish and Tomasz Schafernaker for instance, but I’m sure if he were allowed to move – instead of being almost nailed to the spot – then he would.
* It’s obvious that I’ve never been a presenter, because after writing this I realised that BBC presenters do in fact stand on the right – so I should clarify that I mean on the ‘left’ of the viewers screen!
Why the left’s not good for the UK
Our weather in the UK is predominantly driven by the Atlantic Ocean and comes in from the west or southwest – so where do we position the presenter? Yes, precisely in the wrong place – where any low pressure or frontal system first shows its hand. I’m not suggesting they should all now stand on the right, or that they should be continually moving around, what I’m suggesting is to let them decide where to stand depending on the weather situation. For instance if the flow was westerly the right hand side of the screen would be surely the best place. (I’m not suggesting for one moment that in a southerly situation that we should suspend them by sky hooks and drop them down from the ceiling of the studio on a pulley hoist, it’s a great idea, but I’m sure health and safety wouldn’t be keen).
What do they do elsewhere?
I thought that I’d take a quick look round the world and see which side of the screen other weather presenters stood. It looks like in Western Australia they stand on the right, it might be that the left might be better here though (fig 2).
In New Zealand they also seem to stand on the right, but standing on the right looks far better than standing on the right because of the geography of New Zealand (fig 3).
In America covering the entire country from west to east means that nailing the presenters shoes down on the left will definitely not work. The presenter can freely move around to point out weather on the east coast just as Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day (fig 4).
At least the BBC presenters can rotate a little on the spot, but the forecasters of Meteo France seem to have both feet firmly rooted to the studio floor with their upper body hardly swivelling at all (fig 5).
The Germans are pretty mobile, but again they favour the right rather than the left, perhaps it’s because most people are right-handed and that suits them better (fig 6).
The Irish seem to have gone along with the BBC and stand on the left (fig 7), but again why not be daring and stand on the right!
Not surprisingly there’s been little thought given down at the Met Office to doing any differently from how its been done for the last 63 years at the BBC, with Alex Deakin again stood on the left, completely blocking any potential developments at 50N and 50W in the NWP forecast animation (fig 8). It’s such a pity, because the graphic are great, and it looks like they’ve still not managed to figure out how to change the spacing for those ridiculously closely packed barbs on all the cold/warm/occluded fronts produced by their new graphics engine, compare it to how it should look in the German and New Zealand graphics.
In my quick tour of the world of weather forecasts, courtesy of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, I would say the majority of presenters still stand on the left rather than the right for some unknown reason, but I think things maybe be slowly changing as the weather presenter is “unchained” and becomes more mobile.
It maybe that weather presenters stand on the left around the world because on the 11th of January 1954 – George Cowling (fig 8) presented the world’s first live broadcast weather forecast on BBC TV – probably stood on the left (I can’t be certain because I don’t think there’s a video of that forecast), or then again maybe not.
There’s change coming to the BBC weather this spring though, because Meteogroup are taking over. I’m not sure if they are going to use weather graphics supplied by Metraweather, but if they do they may well swap from the left to the right, or maybe even allow them to be as mobile as the presenters are on Channel TG4 in Ireland are who do use Metraweather (fig 9). This is how a weather forecast should be presented, with the presenter unfettered to move about wherever he or she wants depending on the situation – very impressive.