Met Office loses BBC weather forecasting contract

General Views of BBC Broadcasting House

The Met Office has lost its lucrative weather forecasting contract with the BBC after nearly a century of providing the service.

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.

Dutch and New Zealand firms are said to be in the running for the contract, which is believed to make up a sizeable share of the £32.5 million a year the Met Office receives from commercial organisations, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told the newspaper: "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 Met Office 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.

It announced plans last year to spend £97 million on a new supercomputer.

The Met Office it was "disappointing" that it would not be supplying weather presenters and graphics to the BBC in the future.

A spokesman added: "We are also supporting our popular team of presenters to ensure clarity on their future."

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 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 long standing relationship with the Met Office will continue as we intend to still broadcast their severe weather warnings."