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BBC Weather: Why we run an open competition for the service

Nigel Charters

Project Director, BBC Weather re-procurement

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Nigel Charters, Project Director, BBC Weather re-procurement explains the rationale behind the process to secure the future of the BBC's weather service.

It is often said that weather is the national obsession. We know this to be true because our weather app is downloaded 15 times a minute and our bulletins are watched by millions.

BBC weather is important to us. We care about it and will always be innovative and ambitious in how we present it. However, with our current Met Office contract due to expire in 14 months we began a formal re-procurement about a year ago. As we last did in 2009.

The overarching aim for us is to maintain and enhance our position as the leading destination for weather information, whilst improving the service available to global audiences. This is founded on a reputation for high-quality timely, accurate distinctive and innovative content across all platforms.

First, let’s deal with the legal side of things. All publicly funded organisations in this country are considered something called a ‘contracting authority’ under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 introduced by the Government. Those regulations implement the EU's 2014 Public Sector Procurement Directiveand state a contract must be awarded to the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’, which is the optimum combination of both quality of the services offered and the cost.

This means that wherever public money is being spent the BBC is legally obliged to go through an open competition to avoid any inappropriate influence in awarding such contracts.

Under this law we are duty bound to consider and treat equally all the bids we receive from companies across Europe. We then take forward the strongest bid to make sure we secure both the best possible service and value for money for the licence fee payer.

In June last year we published a notice in the EU Journal of our intentions to tender two contracts: one for the supply of weather data and on air presenters and one for the supply of weather graphics.

The Met Office currently supplies the weather services and, people may not realise this, an independent private company called MetraWeather supplies the graphics. Incidentally, our Shipping Forecasts won’t change. We will continue to broadcast the reports on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (who use Met Office data) and we will continue to issue the Met Office’s National Severe Weather Warnings.

We expect to be able to take a final decision on the procurement later this year, but in order  to keep the process moving we have now shortlisted the best bidders.

We have valued the Met Office’s relationship immensely over the years and were clear we wanted them to put in a very strong proposal. But we have to consider all bids fairly. So last week we had to inform a number of bidders, including the Met Office, that having done a detailed evaluation of all the bids we are not in a position to take forward their proposals to provide the service from late 2016.

We know our viewers expect the highest standard of weather service and what they get won’t change. We will not compromise on quality.

The way we provide information will continue to evolve, taking advantage of technology changes where it makes new things possible. We have worked hard in recent years to create new products for our audiences to satisfy an ever increasing appetite for information. This includes the app, a ten day forecast, a world weather forecast for a UK audience and much more use of forecast confidence and science in our broadcasts. A quarter of all people now check the weather from us on their mobiles and we’ll carry on innovating.

In addition, we also want to maintain the high quality of our on-air presentation. We have always had a team made up of a mix of meteorologists and experienced, trained weather presenters. We don’t anticipate any significant changes to our on-air presenting team in the near future.

Those companies still in the process have proven track records for delivering weather services to some of the biggest broadcasters around the world, including other UK broadcasters and national newspapers.

So the outlook remains positive. BBC Weather will continue to produce the authoritative, reliable, accurate and modern weather service on which our audiences rely.

Nigel Charters is Project Director, BBC Weather re-procurement

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