We're all paying the price for the BBC's decision to drop the Met Office

Saving a few quid on the forecast is neither here nor there

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The Independent Online

Have you noticed how bad the weather's been since the BBC gave the Met Office the boot? Serves you all right, I can hear the meteorological boffins saying at their Exeter headquarters. We have been your faithful servants for almost a century, bringing you the most accurate forecasts in the world (that's official, by the way), together with some moments of pure TV gold, and this is how you reward us! We can't exactly summon up pestilence and plagues of frogs, but how about rain without end, strong winds and something in the air which conclusively indicates that, for you, summer is over.

I don't see why we should all suffer for the BBC's unreasonable, and rather unfathomable, decision to send the Met Office to the Schafernaker's Yard. Surely, the Corporation has weightier issues to tackle than whether its weather service is on the money. Like robustly defending the licence fee settlement against the forces of conservatism. Or standing up to the attacks from politicians of all hues (Alex Salmond being the latest to hurl a grenade over its wall). And ensuring that its creative director (of whom more later) doesn't put his name to fool letters in support of his  charity.

In the current climate, so to speak, saving a few quid on the forecast is neither here nor there for the Beeb. It's not as if by going to a more cost efficient supplier - like the private companies from New Zealand and Holland who are thought to be front runners to get the contract - will stop us complaining about the weather anyway. The point is that, if most people were to list their grievances with the BBC, the weather forecast probably wouldn't feature in the top 10.

Don't just take my word for it. An independent research agency recently conducted a study that involved 70 families across the UK - the majority of whom felt a degree of antipathy towards the licence fee - having all BBC services blocked for a period of nine days. Most had changed their minds about the Corporation offering value for money by the end of the study. “The adverts just drove me nuts,” said one respondent. “My husband won't listen to the news on anything but the BBC,” said another.

And here's the telling evidence, given before the decision to dispense with the Met Office was announced. “The weather on ITV is Mickey Mouse,” said one interviewee. “You can tell that the person who's reading it doesn't understand it. Whereas when you watch it on the BBC they clearly know what they're talking about and put the script together from the research they've done. It's quite a profound difference.”

 

I don't know how much Alan Yentob, the aforementioned creative director, had to do with the decision to get rid of the Met Office, but I feel like writing to him to say that there's a danger of rioting in the streets, arson and looting as a result. A letter in Yentob used the same hyperbolic language in a missive to the government, warning of the catastrophic consequences if funding was halted to the charity Kids Company, of which he is chairman.

It was a crass, inflammatory and risible statement from a clever man. But how do we know about it? Only as a result of a BBC investigation. So an important piece of journalism was conducted without fear or favour, and no matter that one of their bosses is embarrassed by it. And the news bulletins carried the story in full. In a career spanning 30 years, I've never worked for a media organisation where there was so much independence of thought and so little compromise on journalistic standards. And as the storm clouds gather over Broadcasting House, this is what's worth us all defending.

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