The Met Office, the iconic British weather forecaster, has lost the deal it has held for about a century to supply public broadcaster the BBC with weather forecasts, marking the end one of the longest partnerships in British media.
The BBC said it was lawfully required to open up the deal to external competition in order to secure the greatest value for those paying license fees.
The meteorological department said it was dissatisfied by the BBC’s choice to put out to tender the deal, which has been in existence since the organization’s first radio weather conditions report on 14 November 1922. Operations and customer services director at the Met Office, Steve Noyes, said: “Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionized weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life. Met Office and BBC belong together.”
He added, “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.”
New Zealand and Dutch organizations are said to be in the contest for the contract, which is said to make up a significant share of the £32.5m the Met Office earns yearly from commercial companies.
Regarding the plan, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said, “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.”
Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist and a retired culture secretary, called for government intercession in a number of tweets.
Last year, the Met Office publicized plans to spend £97m on a new-fangled supercomputer. The service has been significantly criticized, most particularly the “barbecue summer’’ projection in 2009 that preceded a failure and led to the company ending its long-standing outlooks.
BBC weather broadcasters have long been targeted by critics. Tomasz Schafernaker stuck his middle finger up at BBC journalist Simon McCoy live on air in 2010. Speaking in the BBC newsroom, McCoy stated: “Now we will have the weather forecast in a minute and of course it will be 100% accurate and provide all the detail you can possibly want. I’ve just seen Tom Schafernaker preparing for it.” The camera then cut to the presenter who, actually uninformed that he was on air, made the finger sign. Realizing his fault, he raised his finger to his face in an effort to conceal it, before the camera went back to McCoy, who stated: “There’s always one mistake. That was it.”
A BBC spokesperson 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 license fee payer.”