The thing is that people talking about nothing is pretty much the most annoying noise in the world. I know that researchers have recently claimed that mewling babies make the most infuriating sound known to man, but that’s only because they haven’t heard Tim Henman commentating on Wimbledon. Or invested in a soundproofed baby-sized cupboard.
The BBC has had to apologise for its Wimbledon commentary team this week, after receiving over 100 complaints about their ‘over-talking’. But when does talking become excessive? It doesn’t just depend on the viewer, but also on the commentator. I would cheerfully listen to John McEnroe walk the fine service line between champion’s insight and borderline libel all day.
But Tim Henman’s incapacity to construct a single sentence which isn’t comprised entirely of cliché (you can’t win the tournament in the first week, but you can lose it in the first week; practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent) makes me want to beat my television to death with a hammer.
The same is true of weather forecasters, about whom the BBC has also been receiving an unseasonal flurry of complaints. I can take any amount of chattiness from Carol Kirkwood: she has a soothing voice and often wears a jaunty coat. But according to Radio 4’s Feedback, other people are driven to fury by BBC weather chat.
Audiences often found the language of weather forecasts impenetrable, citing, ‘a little ribbon of cloud flirting with the South West’. And since ribbon rarely flirts, unless it sees some particularly minxy buttons nearby, who could argue?
Listeners also complained that forecasters are too keen to peg the weather to some mythical social event: barbecues, gardening and picnics. This presumably alienates those of us who don’t have a barbecue, a garden, or a penchant for eating scotch eggs near ants.
Most vehemently, they objected to being told to take an umbrella out with them when rain was forecast. Which is surely the eye of this storm: people who tune in to weather forecasts want to know whether or not it’s going to rain, not how to get dressed if it does. They’re listening to Radio 4, for heaven’s sake, The Archers has trained them for that.