Sunday, August 23, 2015

Storm clouds in Exeter

The Sunday Times (paywalled) says the BBC is about to buy its weather service from someone other than the Met Office. Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, where the Met Office has been based following the move from Bracknell in 2003, has been outraged since Friday.

Service contracts don't last forever, and the BBC, as a public body, is obliged to follow European law on tendering. The contract last came up for renewal in 2010, when New Zealand operation METRA is thought to have run the Met Office close. Since then METRA has picked up contracts to supply broadcasters in Italy, Ireland, Finland and The Netherlands. Another likely bidder is MeteoGroup, which started in The Netherlands, won investment from the Press Association, and is now in the hands of US private equity group General Atlantic, who have made strategic investments in Uber, Buzz Feed and Air B'n'B.  It won the Sky News contract in 2011.

Other regulations mean the Met Office has to sell on its data at fair prices, so a new BBC contractor should have no problem with access, if it needs it. The competition is more likely to be around innovation in graphic techniques and online offerings. And probably the only other sufferers, other than the Met Office, will be the forecasters, most of whom are likely to be TUPE'd across to a new employer, which is never fun.

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