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Stormy future for BBC Radio 4's shipping forecast?

Published 25/09/2015

The BBC's famous shipping forecast could be under threat from the rise of digital radio and an ageing transmitter, a former announcer has warned
The BBC's famous shipping forecast could be under threat from the rise of digital radio and an ageing transmitter, a former announcer has warned

It has been a British institution for years, but it looks as though the shipping forecast's days may be numbered.

Peter Jefferson, who read the forecast for 40 years, has warned that the famous BBC Radio 4 broadcast may face stormy seas ahead.

Speaking at the Radio Times Festival at Hampton Court, he highlighted the plight of the long-range mast at Droitwich Transmitting Station in Worcestershire, saying: "It's very old and it's falling over ... its days are numbered, perhaps."

As FM radio can only reach around 12 miles (19km) from the coast, this would put the shipping forecast - which currently reaches as far as south-east Iceland on long-wave radio - in peril.

The transmitter is old and expensive to maintain and, as radio goes digital, Mr Jefferson warned that the service - dating back to 1911 - may be under threat in the future.

Mr Jefferson, one of BBC radio's most famous voices as a continuity announcer, delivered his last shipping forecast on Monday September 21 2009.

The forecast, which airs four times a day, is listened to by an audience who are mainly on dry land - especially the broadcast at 00:48 - despite being aimed at sailors.

Reflecting on the forecast's fans, Mr Jefferson joked that "their sleeping pills don't work".

He added: "We all like regularity in our lives to some extent ... It's the pattern of the words, even if they don't know what the hell it means."

Among its famous fans is none other than Dame Judi Dench, who recently chose the forecast as one of her Desert Island Discs.

Mr Jefferson also revealed his irritation at announcers who have taken over the forecast since he retired and - according to fans - put pauses in all the wrong places. He hinted: "I do have views, yes."

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