The Shipping Forecast is a four-times-daily BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The forecasts sent over the Navtex system use a similar format and the same sea areas.
The waters around the British Isles are divided into sea areas, also known as weather areas (see map above). There are four broadcasts per day.
The unique and distinctive sound of these broadcasts has led to their attracting an audience much wider than that directly interested in maritime weather conditions. Many listeners find the repetition of the names of the sea areas almost hypnotic, particularly during the night-time broadcast at 0048 UK time.
The last broadcast of the Shipping Forecast at 0048 each day is traditionally preceded by the playing of Sailing By, a light orchestral piece by Ronald Binge. This is only very rarely omitted, generally when the schedule is running late. Though occasionally played in full, it is common for only a section of the piece to be broadcast; that section being the length required to fill the gap between the previous programme’s ending and the start of the forecast at precisely 0048.
More importantly, Sailing By serves as a vital identification tool - it is distinctive and as such assists anyone attempting to tune in. The forecast is then followed by the National anthem and the closedown of the station for the day, with the BBC World Service taking over the frequencies after the BBC Pips at 0100.
*listen to the Shipping Forecast