Wednesday 21 March 2018

BBC decision to axe weather forecasting contract with Met Office described as 'disappointing'

BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Sam Lister

The BBC's decision to axe its long-standing weather forecasting contract with the Met Office is "disappointing", the service has said.

Negotiations to renew the deal hit a dead end and a new firm is expected to take over next year.

The BBC said it was legally required to open up the contract to outside competition and secure the best value for money for licence fee payers.

But the move brings to an end a lucrative relationship that has seen the Met Office provide weather services, including presenters and graphics, to the BBC for nearly a century.

Steve Noyes, Met Office operations and customer services director, said: "Nobody knows Britain's weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we've revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.

"This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output.

"Ranked number one in the world for forecast accuracy, people trust our forecasts and warnings. There are lots of ways to access these both now and in the future - via the Met Office app, website and video forecasts, as well as through television and other digital news providers."

The Met Office said it would be supporting its team of weather presenters to "ensure clarity on their future".

It has faced criticism of its forecasts in recent years, most notably the ''barbecue summer'' forecast in 2009 which preceded a washout and led the organisation to stop producing long-term outlooks. Last year it announced plans to spend £97 million on a new supercomputer.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told the Mail on Sunday: "Everybody understands the BBC has to cut costs. But the public will need to be convinced the new forecaster can accurately predict the fickleness of the British weather, especially if it's a foreign provider."

Former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, an ex-BBC journalist who now represents Exeter, where the Met Office is based, called for the Government to intervene.

The Labour MP tweeted: "Extremely alarmed by rumours BBC to drop UK Met Office in favour of foreign weather forecaster. Vital 90 year old strategic relationship."

The BBC said it would still use the Met Office for its severe weather warnings.

A spokesman said: "Our viewers get the highest standard of weather service and that won't change. We are legally required to go through an open tender process and take forward the strongest bids to make sure we secure both the best possible service and value for money for the licence fee payer.

"Our graphics are already supplied by another provider and our longstanding relationship with the Met Office will continue as we intend to still broadcast their severe weather warnings."

Press Association

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