BBC"s new weather software gets blast from Scots

Von Paul Brislen

They take their weather very seriously in Scotland, as the BBC is finding out after the launch of its New Zealand-developed weather system on the news.

Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil describes the new 3D graphics as giving a "daft, distorted" view of Scotland.

"People in my constituency depend on reliable weather forecasting for a range of crucial outdoor activities -- including fishing and crofting -- but this new map leaves them with almost zero visibility for weather in the isles," MacNeil told the BBC.

The problem stems from the 3D view of Britain with its southern end being much closer to the viewer and so appearing much larger than northern counties.

MacNeil claims this distorts the view of Scotland, making England and Wales appear to be much larger.

"There would be outcry in London if the map was angled from the north, because it would have Barra bigger than London and Lewis twice the size of the south-west."

MetService New Zealand, which built and supplies the software, says it"s really an issue about perception rather than reality, according to international sales and marketing manager Tom Sutherland.

"It"s a 3D map based on a globe so there is no distortion as such, it"s a matter of perception."

Sutherland says the BBC is using the latest version of MetService"s Weatherscape XT, developed for TVNZ"s news, and is currently deployed by numerous broadcasters around the world.

"TV3 uses it here as does Channel Nine in Australia, a number of Middle Eastern countries and several CNBC stations in the US."

BBC viewers have complained in their droves about the new graphics which constitute the biggest shake up of the BBC"s weather presentation style in almost 20 years. Nearly 250 viewers called to complain, with only eight calling to support the change. Most seem upset that a dirty brown color has been chosen rather than plush green for the countryside.

"Our "green and pleasant land" has become muddy brown, what we normally associate as sky blue is now rain, which would be better grey. It"s all a bit of a mix-up" writes one grumpy weather watcher on the BBC website. Another, Stuart Quick, says: " What on earth is the point of doing pseudo-3D maps? If the weather was 3D I"d understand it but I"m not a pilot". Quick hails from Manchester.

Sutherland says any slur on Scottish weather or geographical size is entirely unintentional. "Our chief executive, John Lumsden, is from Scotland," he says.