Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
American novelist Ilka Chase once wrote that, “Among famous traitors of history one might mention the weather.” Now it seems unauthorized predictions about the weather are getting the traitor treatment, too. A proposed South African law would make any weather forecast about severe weather or air pollution not authorized by the government-funded South African Weather Service (SAWS) subject to five years in prison and a $630,000.00 fine. The law would affect TV weather forecasters, online services like Weather.com, and community based weather services. Talk about a government sponsored monopoly.
And a monopoly with a purpose. Only SAWS generated text message warnings and radar images are approved, and, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, these are available to the public only after paying a subscription fee. Given South Africa’s arid climate and its summer’s fast-moving thunderstorms, this information is vital to the farm and the business communities. The information now comes with a government set price tag. I’d call it a weather tax.
Any organization wishing to publish weather warnings will need to get written permission from SAWS to do so. One of the community-based weather organizations that would be affected by the bill is the South Africa Weather and Disaster Observation Service (SAWDOS). It’s founder, Johan Terblanche pointed out that, “Experience has taught us that to get permission from any institution takes time — that is if you can get hold of the designated person.” So South Africans in the path of severe weather will either have to buy the SAWS subscription service or hope their community-based service gets to the right person in time for the warning.
Another lesson in the “We’re from the government and here to help you” playbook.
Source: Mother Nature Network
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger