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icy response Met Éireann criticised by viewers over spelling, fashion sense and speaking too quickly

RTÉ viewers criticised forecasters for blocking out maps and wearing black clothes on St Patrick’s Day

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Meteorologist Jean Byrne often caused a stir with her outfits, and recent viewers still criticised presenters’ clothes, with one calling it a ‘fashion show’. Picture by Frank McGrath

Meteorologist Jean Byrne often caused a stir with her outfits, and recent viewers still criticised presenters’ clothes, with one calling it a ‘fashion show’. Picture by Frank McGrath

Meteorologist Jean Byrne often caused a stir with her outfits, and recent viewers still criticised presenters’ clothes, with one calling it a ‘fashion show’. Picture by Frank McGrath

Weather presenters speaking too quickly, forecasters wearing black clothes on St Patrick’s Day, and a lack of formality in greeting viewers were among the complaints logged by Met Éireann last year about its TV and radio forecast services.

The meteorology service received 41 complaints last year about broadcast coverage, with a flurry of 13 complaints in August, almost half of them relating to the misspelling of the word lightning. 

The first complaint of the year said one forecaster was “clearly competent with good presentation skills” but had a habit of speaking too quickly.

A month later it was a similar story, with a viewer saying it was “not a race” and that forecasts were “ultra-important” for many people.

In March, one forecaster’s choice of clothes colour on St Patrick’s Day was met with dismay in one complaint. “Black! Black! Black! Really, what’s wrong with green, the only day of the year to celebrate our culture,” they wrote.

Informal greetings like “hi there” were also criticised by a viewer who said it was “very impersonal”.

“There was a time forecasters greeted TV viewers with a good morning/afternoon/evening,” they wrote.

Eight separate complaints were logged about forecasts that misspelled the word lightning as lightening, according to records released under Freedom of Information.

One message said: “This isn’t a major error but it just sends out the wrong message from you guys. Hope you aren’t traumatised by my trivial comment. Keep up the good work!”

Another said meteorologists, of all people, should know the difference between the word lightening — meaning to make lighter — and the weather event lightning.

“For how long — days, weeks, months, years or decades — has this basic cringeworthy mistake been broadcast to the nation every time we are due a bit of a thunderstorm?” they asked.

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Later that month several viewers wrote in again to ask forecasters to make sure they slowed down when giving the weather.

“Us older folk find it hard to understand,” one viewer wrote, while another said their 90-year-old mother-in-law was struggling to keep up.

In September a viewer wondered if static noise in the background of the radio forecast was “deliberate”.

“I thought it was strange that there was no apology for such interference as is the normal procedure,” they said. “I notice that it is still going on and now I think that it is deliberate.

“It is a din din din noise overtaking the forecaster and which makes me reach for the headache pills.”

Forecasters blocking off parts of the map of Ireland when presenting was also raised in one letter from the west coast.

“Would it be possible to show less of the UK and more of our country and west coast… after all, RTÉ is OUR national broadcaster,” one viewer wrote

A marking on the map showing the major urban centres of Ireland including Letterkenny, instead of Derry, was flagged in two separate complaints.

One said Derry was “five times as large” and it was disturbing to see the city of Derry “so consistently marginalised” in visual terms. 

Another complainant took the time to send a formal letter with five suggestions for how to review the format of the RTÉ weather forecast.

The person — whose name has been redacted — said the weather sometimes seemed like a “fashion show” and also lamented the use of the Beaufort Scale to measure wind speed, which they said was “archaic” and means little to most people.

They also quibbled with why relative humidity was so rarely mentioned, the lines indicating political borders on maps, and the use of imprecise language like “settling down” and “improving”, which mean different things to everybody.

“Settling down could mean a continuing drought to many farmers,” they said. “Such expressions are value judgments and have no place in what should be a presentation based on scientific facts.”

Asked about the complaints, communications meteorologist Bonnie Diamond said: “At Met Éireann we have a team of skilled meteorologists who as part of their role present the daily weather bulletins on RTÉ TV and Radio.

“All meteorologists receive regular broadcast training from RTÉ — this covers voice coaching, presenting and communication skills.

“Both Met Éireann and RTÉ are proud of our team of forecasters who keep the public informed about the weather in Ireland which helps keep them, their families, homes and businesses safe.”

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