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FEATURED AUSTRALIA WEATHER: ABC management unaware of BOM decision to replace meteorologists for radio updates

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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.07: 2022:

#AceNewsDesk – A senior ABC manager says the broadcaster had to ask for a “please explain” from the Bureau of Meteorology after changes to forecasting started to affect radio programs.

Satellite image of Aus. Deep clouds over N WA. Speckled clouds over south east.
In addition to changes to radio weather forecasts, the bureau is directing people to it’s website.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)none

The bureau is moving away from having meteorologists provide weather crosses to the ABC and commercial radio programs in favour of using less qualified “community information officers”.

Hugh Martin, head of Regional, Rural and Emergency at the ABC, said he had concerns including further centralisation of bureau staff presenting weather crosses to ABC programs. 

“There had been some concerns in some of our regional stations that they were getting crosses from [interstate] locations,” Mr Martin said.

“But there wasn’t anything official so we had a meeting with the bureau in late October and they told us they wanted their meteorologists to concentrate on the science.

“And they would be creating a central communications team to manage radio crosses, that would be based in an east coast capital city.”

A photograph of a large lightning storm over a wheat field with lightning stiking down in the distance.
The bureau is moving away from having meteorologists provide weather crosses for ABC radio.(Supplied)none

Mr Martin said changes to the quality of radio weather forecasts began showing in September, when Northern Territory program makers complained to ABC management.

“In early October in Queensland some of our radio teams were calling their regular BOM contacts for radio crosses and were told to contact a phone number in Melbourne instead,” he said.

“That was a change that wasn’t communicated [to the ABC] prior to those on-air teams being told to call a different number.”

Mr Martin said he understood the financial pressures the bureau was facing as a government-funded organisation.

But he said a lack of communication had resulted in inaccuracies going to air, with communications officers on occasion being referred to as qualified meteorologists.

“That communication process is not where we want it to be,” he said.

“We actually don’t know who the communication experts are at the other end often.

“Whereas through years of interaction we’ve come to know these senior meteorologists and form that relationship with them, which is really important.”People in regional Victoria have voiced concerns about changes in forecast radio broadcasting.(ABC News: Evelyn Leckie)none

Mr Martin said with time the confidence in community information officers could increase.

“But that’s not where we are at, at the moment, and this is the problem,” he said.

He said he was keen to work with the BOM to understand how the arrangement could work for both parties and for audiences.

“Australian taxpayers and audiences are the reason that we do this, so it’s really important that we get it right,” he said.

“It is something that is crucial to how we operate and I’m very keen to make sure we get it back on track.”

The Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement that community information officers would have “relevant qualifications in meteorology, climatology, hydrology, communications, environmental science and/or engineering from an Australian educational institution” or “comparable overseas qualifications”.The bureau says its information officers will have relevant qualifications.(Supplied)none

“Wherever possible, the community information officers are based in the region of the broadcast, however the bureau’s priority remains on providing accurate and timely information to enable better decision making by the community,” a bureau spokesperson said.

“Everyone delivering radio crosses draws on local information and is fully briefed on local weather issues.”

The spokesperson said the radio crosses were shared across the national community information officer team and the local team to ensure availability of staff at the hours requested by the radio stations.

“Currently, the bureau has approximately 90 staff around Australia who deliver radio crosses, including community information officers.”

Senior federal government ministers were contacted but declined to comment.

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