LETTER:Is there such a thing as a free piece of information?

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The Independent Online
PETER Victor is right about The Met Office charging for weather information, but his article does not fully reflect our policy on the release of information ("Freedom of information: it will cost you", 18 June). It should also be noted that the commercial revenue generated makes a small but essential contribution to the cost of the meteorological infrastructure of the UK.

We do not charge for all weather information. For example, the Public Met Service provides an agreed range of weather services, directly funded by government, and essentially freely available to all. This includes the National Severe Weather Warning Service, the shipping forecast on Radio 4, The Met Office library and a range of educational services.

Policy for the provision of other weather information recognises that there is no such thing as "free data". Charges reflect market conditions and the use to which the data will be put. We make data available for research and educational purposes on terms which recover the cost of extraction and transmission of the data only. However, where the information will be used for commercial activities we expect to recover the full cost of providing that data.

Alan Douglas

The Meteorological Office

Bracknell, Berks

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