BBC and the Met Office

It’s very disappointing that the Met Office has lost the contract to provide weather reporting for the BBC. It’s a world-class organisation and it’s hard to see another providing the same level of service. Maybe cheaper, but better seems unlikely.

This, however, gives me an opportunity to mention two thoughts (which you can take with as big, or as small, a pinch of salt as you’d like) about the Met Office. The Met Office is not only publicly funded, but is also formally part of the Public Sector. I can see two basic arguments for why it might be better if it were to be private, even if it were still essentially publicly funded.

One is that being part of the public sector means that Met Office staff have to be careful about expressing views with regards to policy. My understanding of this rule is that it is based on the idea that public sector workers are required to implement whatever policy the government of the day would like implemented, and should do so without prejudice. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. Scientists, however, are not implementing policy, but are – at best – informing policy. Ideally scientists should also have academic freedom. Restricting those who happen to be public sector workers seems to undermine this fundamental part of the scientific process.

Furthermore, I sometimes get the impression that this restriction filters out into the broader scientific community in the UK. This could be because many have an association with the Met Office, but sometimes appears related to the whole science/advocacy issue when – as far as I’m aware – it’s simply intended as a mechanism for maintaining public sector objectivity. It’s not that I think scientists should be advocating, but I do think scientists should be free to express whatever views they would like.

The other advantage I can see with the Met Office being outside of the public sector is that they might feel less obliged to pander to the likes of Keenan, Montford and their ilk; those with a ratio of confidence to actual competence that’s approaching infinity. Being more able to say “sorry, you’re talking bollocks and spreading mis-information” would be doing the public a great service. Of course, I’m not suggesting that they use those words exactly, but being able to be more direct would – in my opinion – be quite valuable.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that it would be good if the Met Office were privatised; simply expressing some views as to possible disadvantages of being in the public sector. There are many other reasons why it may well be much better to stay as it is. It’s clearly a very important organisation that provides a crucial public service, with a wide range of different roles. Maintaining this level of service is very important and risking it would – in my view – be a huge mistake. That’s why it’s hard to see the logic behind the BBC changing its weather reporting provider. The Met Office is not only a national service, but it appears to be one of the best in the world. Apart from saving some money, what advantage can there be to changing to a provider that neither has the Met Office’s history, nor it’s expertise? Seems rather short-sighted to me.

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73 Responses to BBC and the Met Office

  1. Christopher Shaw says:

    It is essentially a military organisation originally designed to provide political and economic elites with the information needed to help extend the imperial reach of Western capital. I couldn’t care less what happens to it.

  2. John Mashey says:

    “either has the Met Office’s history” neither

  3. John,
    Thanks, fixed.

    Chris,
    Hmmm, that’s more extreme than I was expecting.

  4. Andrew dodds says:

    Chris – no, you’ve confused it with Test Match Special.

  5. Catmando says:

    Chris, 😉 spot on

  6. BBD says:

    BBC:

    “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.”

    This reeks of politics. Somebody has been causing trouble behind the scenes.

  7. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, you are making a mistake if you think employees of private organizations are not under similar restrictions. They are not permitted to speak contrary to the policy of the board rather than the government, and are not permitted to speak in a way that will offend potential customers rather than citizens – but the effect is equally, and in many cases, more stultifying.

    Perhaps a better model is treating the Met Office as a publicly funded academic institution, with the advantages of tenure. It is not obvious, however, that the more limited ability to direct research in the academic model is suitable to the Met Office’s function.

  8. The Met Office is not only a national service, but it appears to be one of the best in the world.

    The Met Office is the best national weather service in the world when it comes to the accuracy of the weather prediction. The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts would be the other contender, but is formally not a *national* weather service.

    Weather predictions are very important for military operations. Not too long ago the Met Office was still part of the Ministry of Defence. In Germany the military has its own weather prediction department which uses much of the expertise of the weather service. Even after such a split I cannot image privatising the weather service and selling it to the highest bidder.

    Also in case of severe weather, when lives are at stake and the economy suffers, the national weather service should do all it can to help. Not first negotiate a contract for additional services.

    More freedom of expression sounds like a good idea. Especially when it comes to climate where the politicians would prefer scientists to shut up. One could place the Met Office at a larger distance from the ministry as a national research institute.

  9. graemeu says:

    Try http://www.yr.no for your local weather forecast and easy to use presentation and http://www.metvuw.com for the global picture. I find it very hard to imagine a normal government where weather forecasters would skew there forecasting to appease government policy, except perhaps North Korea, keeping in mind that weather and climate are quite different things.
    John Clarke might have something to say about that.

  10. Tom,

    Anders, you are making a mistake if you think employees of private organizations are not under similar restrictions.

    Yes, I agree; I wasn’t thinking “private, for profit”.

    Perhaps a better model is treating the Met Office as a publicly funded academic institution, with the advantages of tenure. It is not obvious, however, that the more limited ability to direct research in the academic model is suitable to the Met Office’s function.

    This is kind of model was what I was thinking of, but I agree that it may not be the best model for what the Met Office provides. It may well be that the current model is optimal, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some disadvantages to being formally public sector.

  11. semyorka says:

    “It is essentially a military organisation originally designed to provide political and economic elites with the information needed to help extend the imperial reach of Western capital. ”
    You mean like it spotting the break in the weather that allowed us to invade France on the 6th of June 1944 thus liberating Western Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny?

  12. BBD says:

    From Wiki:

    Following a machinery of government change, the Met Office became part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 18 July 2011.[2]

    But prior to that, as semyorka points out, a tool of military despotism.

  13. semyorka says:

    Britain, including conservative Britain has a set of institutions it trusts. The civil service, Radio 4, BBC News, the Met Office are near the top. It is unavoidable that a great many “conservative” politicians wish to break this trust. They are no longer conservatives who wish to follow the traditions of Burke in preserving the stability of society but have become intoxicated with the desire for a sort of right wing Maoist permanent revolution. Everything must be broken and destroyed in an eternal orgy of Austrian School creative destruction. They have gone way beyond a “neoliberal” re-establishing of the pre-war liberal consensus that markets should be self correcting into a kind of anarchism of constant revolution.

    They seem to believe the only truth is market share value, all else is Stalinist statism.

  14. semyorka says:

    “as semyorka points out, a tool of military despotism.”
    Despotism? Well if your a Nazi, the imposition of liberal democracy was despotism.

  15. I have a feeling that BBD was being ironic? Maybe, however, we can avoid this thread degenerating into a discussion about imperialism and military expansion. Interesting topic as it is, it’s hard enough dealing with one contentious topic at a time.

  16. BBD says:

    semyorka

    What ATTP said.

    🙂

  17. BBD says:

    This is why Twitter is hell…

    🙂

  18. Is this really such an enormous catastrophe? It is just about the presentation of the weather at the BBC. The MetOffice will keep on making weather forecasts, you can see them in many other channels. And when it gets dangerous, you will get official warnings from the MetOffice, also at the BBC. Warning at a responsibility of the public administration.

    Companies who need weather information for their bottom line will keep on buying it at the MetOffice. The new company presenting the BBC weather may even buy their information from the MetOffice. If not, the public may be somewhat less informed about the weather. But a main German weather portal gets its predictions from the free global US model. The normal population seems to be sufficiently happy with that quality.

    In Germany and The Netherlands the national weather service does not present the weather themselves any more. That is somewhat inefficient, but otherwise no problem. If severe weather is coming you now first get to hear that in the weather prediction and then it gets repeated in the official warning of the weather service.

    A bigger problem was that the German weather service was forbidden to communicate with the public for a long time because they were not allowed to compete with the commercial weather services. That was and mostly is pure destruction of wealth created with tax payer money to artificially generate a market for commercial weather services. They are now allowed to have a very basic weather prediction on their homepage, but much other value they create is buried. That is a scandal.

  19. Victor,
    Indeed, it may not be that big an issue and the information will probably come from the Met Office anyway. I thought this was also a good point you made in your earlier comment

    More freedom of expression sounds like a good idea. Especially when it comes to climate where the politicians would prefer scientists to shut up. One could place the Met Office at a larger distance from the ministry as a national research institute.

  20. Richard says:

    ATTP – I think for once I find myself in disagreement with you.

    The reason for this outrageously shortsighted decision is the same as many other cases where essential infrastructure gets ‘outsourced’ (and weather services is no less infrastructure than railway lines or telecommunications). It is some clever accountant finding ways to reduce fixed costs and appear to improve value for money, so as to satisfy some edict from above. In this case, Osborne’s decimation of public services.

    We see in broadband in UK how the crazy decisions by Government in the UK have led to a programme which was designed to open the market for broadcasters (a liberalisation of the market for one way bandwidth) but hopeless for supporting business in a new digital economy (ie. two way bandwidth). That is: how ignorant politicians + spreadsheet driven accountants cock up the very business they claim to support.

    This spread-sheetism is now a corporate disease that infects many sectors. In its most banal form we see it in the army of middle men who mediate ones life in corporate world, such as the 3 months it took me to get a new work PC due to a 10 step process that straddled the globe.

    For most sectors, they can eventually recover from this madness (after hefty rewards for senior management for ‘adding value’ to the business … cry, groan, spit), because new entrants can change the rules. We might even see this in banking for SMEs for example. Let’s see. After the billions wasted its will be small comfort.

    BUT for strategic infrastructure like the railways, telecommunications and the met office, this is not possible, and we meddle with these at their peril.

    The ‘markets will make everything better’ dogma has been disproven and the Met office is even more vulnerable to its idiocies given its specialist character.

    It is not helped by the fact that some in the Tory right are actively trying to undermine it (because it is a premier organisation that has helped highlight the dangers of global warming). They also want to undermine the BBC (because it is a premier organization that has helped to highlight the inferiority of the private sector media organizations they cleave to).

    So for these right-wingers, the thought of the BBC denying a contract the Met Office, must be like a wet dream … what a laugh, ha ha. Time for another ‘What’s the Point Of’ by that smug, supercilious Quentin Letts, with the sinister backing of Peter ‘I have a little list’ Lilley (be sure he has one, and don’t be surprised if you are on it … “first the came for”, and all that …)

    … for those of us who respect these public institutions it is a nightmare.

    if we privatise these public institutions, corporatism will effectively destroy them, because they must answer to spreadsheets, not public good. Even as notionally public institutions this process is already underway because of the fallacious need for ‘open tenders’ (costs not values) and we are seeing this erosion of value at the BBC.

    It is all part of a Tory dogma to undermine public institutions. They know they cannot mount a frontal attach on the NHS and BBC, or even the Met Office. So they insert the cancer of corporatism and reduced funding to undermine and weaken them from within.

    This is a truly malevolent and insidious strategy.

    You think your broadband is crap?

    Just wait for the new BBC weather service!

    Oh, but wait, don’t these guys get their data from the Met Office, Oh and won’t they re-employ the weathermen and weatherwoman … Oh, so exactly what ‘value do they offer’? Ask a spreadsheet somewhere.

  21. Richard,

    I think for once I find myself in disagreement with you.

    Do you mean you disagree with me agreeing with Victor 🙂 ? If so, all I was agreeing with was the idea that, all else being equal, this is probably not a big deal. Some different organisation will provide the actual reports and the people who present the information, but the info will probably still come from the Met Office and they will still provide emergency information.

    However, I do agree with what I think you’re getting at in the rest of your comment. This is probably indicative of a drive by certain people to undermine public insitutions, probably both the BBC and the Met Office. If so, I agree that the end result will be extremely damaging to organisation that are currently regarded as world-leading.

  22. BBD says:

    So for these right-wingers, the thought of the BBC denying a contract the Met Office, must be like a wet dream … what a laugh, ha ha.

    It’s not ruled out, given the facts.

  23. Richard says:

    ATTP – I was disagreeing that this was not such a big deal and opened possibilities for more open speaking. The BBC – Met Office relationship is 92 years old I heard. What a coup to break that. And, no, they won’t be free to say it like it is because the channel is still the BBC and they are clearly now cowed by this aggressive Tory assault on them. The Met office, while it has commercial funding, is still heavily dependent on public funding (its new supercomputer for example). Will this destroy the Met Office in the short-medium term? No, of course not, but the knives are out and this is all part of a long-term strategy which we ignore at our peril. The Lilleys of this world are a persistent and malevolent force in British politics. They are not going away. They have a long list.

  24. @Christopher Shaw

    I think ATTP has suggested the perfect response:

    sorry, you’re talking bollocks and spreading mis-information

  25. @semyorka

    Yes that was indeed one of the most important weather forecasts ever. The weather chart for D-Day is proudly displayed in the Met Office library.

  26. Eli Rabett says:

    The Met Office should (it will not) refuse to provide information to any organization that repackages their information without explicit permission and assert copyright against the BBC.

  27. @ATTP

    I disagree that “academic freedom” is an issue. Nobody has ever stopped me publishing my research or tried to interfere with it (and indeed I have corrected people at Bishop Hill on this point several times!)

    I don’t offer opinions on policy, and yes this is in line with civil service protocols, but it also suits me just fine as I don’t feel qualified to discuss the ins and outs of carbon taxes or cap and trade or whatever. I talk about what I know about, and the leave the rest to others.

    However, it’s good to know that you and (most) others here recognise the value of the Met Office – thanks for your kind words and support!

  28. JCH says:

    I’m a Yank and really have no experience with the Met Office, but my uncle was 2nd in command of an infantry battalion that landed on Omaha on D+1. Originally scheduled for late afternoon on D-day, but they were delayed overnight. I believe it was a sunny morning. They marched right to the bocage and engaged to take St Lo. I think he would be scratching the huge scar on his head.

  29. Eli Rabett says:

    Richard, as an occasional long term visitor Eli knows that the Met Office is a lot better than the British weather.

  30. We had something similar with a (apparently unsuccessful) push to disadvantage the US National Weather Service to favor profit-making bodies such as AccuWeather (which hosts some prominent deniers, though I think Joe Bastardi has moved on). This is a fairly neutral source:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Weather_Service_Duties_Act_of_2005

    There does seem to be a fair amount of effort put into preventing objective information that contradicts political efforts from circulating. But to be fair I have to admit I don’t know the ins and outs of this one.

  31. Richard,
    I wondered if you’d have views on this 🙂 .

    I disagree that “academic freedom” is an issue. Nobody has ever stopped me publishing my research or tried to interfere with it (and indeed I have corrected people at Bishop Hill on this point several times!)

    I wasn’t trying to suggest that it was really an issue in the sense that you would have been prevented from actually doing some piece of research. I’m not suggesting some kind of conspiracy, unlike the norm on Bishop Hill 🙂 . My point was very simply that imposing that kind of rule onto people who do fundamental research shouldn’t really be necessary and does seem to go against the fundamentals of academic freedom. I realise that you are quite happy to not offer views on policy, but being free to do so if you wished wouldn’t mean that you’d have to. I wasn’t suggesting changing it to “must offer views on policy”. I also wasn’t really proposing that the system should change, as there may be many reasons why the current setup is optimal. I was just suggesting some potential disadvantages to being formally public sector.

  32. @Richard
    There is quite a bit more communication than writing articles and giving policy advice. The climate “debate” does give the impression that scientists from universities feel more free to speak their mind than scientists from weather services.

  33. If this Daily Mail article is right, it looks like it’s between a Dutch firm or a New Zealand firm. I’m all for value for money, but – in this instance – giving the contract to a foreign firm seems rather odd.

  34. @wotts
    Academic freedom applies to university faculty.

  35. Richard,
    Really, no, you don’t say?

  36. Particular thanks to Richard (not Tol, 23 Aug 10:38 pm) for pointing out the new normal of conservative governments everywhere, doing the “Stupid White Men” (Michael Moore) thing, imitating the US and privatizing everything, providing potential profits to their buddies by looting community property. Sorry, I’m a bit leftish and that might have been more politely stated, but the issue remains and is a serious problem for all of us. This could not be the case, but I consider it more likely than not, given other signs such as a removal of subsidies for renewables this coming March and the push for fracking and more fossil. I just looked up Amber Rudd and among other things, this:

    13 August 2015 — News story
    Faster decision making on shale gas for economic growth and energy security
    Shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked through a new, dedicated planning process, under measures announced today.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy-climate-change

  37. izen says:

    @-“Academic freedom applies to university faculty.”

    Both its value, and its price, are high.

    http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2015020710141145

  38. Richard says:

    Susan – you’re welcome (this is Richard Erskine, @EssaysConcern, so low down on the pecking order of the deluge of professorial Richards around these parts 🙂 ).

    Yes indeed, stupid white men (with spreadsheets). You see a lot of once great businesses destroying value while apparently creating it, according to those who know nothing about what they actually do.

    Sometimes it is short-term greed squandering public assets as in the case of QinetiQ

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/2791395/MPs-attack-QinetiQ-chiefs-over-privatisation.html

    Usually, it is the more prosaic mantra ‘privatization is good, public ownership is bad’, that has infected western democracies (at least the Anglo Saxon ones).

    British Rail had a lot of issues for sure, but now we have Railtrack doing all the unsexy but high cost infrastructure work, and the operating companies doing the high margin service delivery; and so what about strategic decisions, such as building high speed? Guess what, we need the politicians back to decide and a regulator trying to keep things fare. What a mess. So much for freeing the sector from malign public interference (which of course was never the primary motivation). The motivation was allowing the private sector to make profits (and leave the public to pay for the infrastructure). Nice trick if you can pull it off.

    An institution like the Met Office takes decades of care, dedication and talent to build up its knowledge and expertise, yet it is much easier to destroy such genuine value. We’ve seen this so many times before. This is not an immediate risk but vigilance, as they say, is the price of freedom.

  39. diessoli says:

    There are (at least) two separate aspects to this. Up to 2005 the MetOffice has provided weather data and their graphical presentation to the BBC.
    But back then the BBC has split those up and started using the New Zealand MetService’s WeatherscapeXT presentation software to produce TV and online graphics. But they are still using MetOffice data as input. (There may be some areas where the MetOffice still produced graphical products, but the bulk is generated by Weatherscape).

    It appears that now the data part is also up for grabs and I am sure there will be many private weather companies bidding for the new contract.

    BTW New Zealand’s MetService is a pseudo private entity, a so called state owned enterprise, i.e. a limited company with all shares owned by the NZ government.

    An interesting scenario would be if, say the MetService would get the BBC contract and they wanted to use the UKMO model data to produce forecasts for the BBC. Not sure about the current arrangement, but in the past MS could not have used UKMO data for products they sell in the UK. If they want to they probably will have to pay a nice license fee for it.
    They don’t depend on it though and could use ECMWF or GFS global model data instead.

  40. diesoli,
    Thanks. I was aware that the BBC wasn’t using the Met Office exclusively even now, but wasn’t aware of the details.

  41. You are all more knowledgeable and providing interesting detail. However …

    In addition, and separate from the profit aspect, there is a distinct possibility that along with profit goes punishment – of an agency whose integrity did not allow it to line up with the party. We have much the same with NASA/NOAA and the EPA, being defunded as fast as possible, and the only environmental action here comes by executive order from our sole powerful Democrat. I’m not thrilled with things like Arctic drilling, but I am cognizant that it could be a whole lot worse.

  42. BBD says:

    As a Brit I’m uncomfortable with the way the Tories are contradicting their own rhetoric about decentralised government. Big talk, but what we get is centralised ‘fast track’ boxing round local council planning decisions to reject fracking.

  43. Toneb says:

    diesoli;
    “They don’t depend on it though and could use ECMWF or GFS global model data instead.”
    They could but AFAIK ECMWF do not do mesoscale forecasts of the UK. It is the preferred model next to the UKMO Global for long term forecasts by senior Met Forecasters but they have a raft of mesoscale models of their own to draw on. BTW: I am a retired MetO Forecaster and have access to their Media briefing service in which senior Forecasters provide analysis and detailed model advice.

  44. The European forecast has long been more reliable than the US American ones: most particularly, for Hurricane Sandy. This has been improved recently, but is still an issue.

  45. Susan,
    Presumably, reliability is now too expensive.

  46. Fergus says:

    The Met Office (i.e., it’s staff) have a long and honourable tradition of producing cutting edge research on climate. It frequently says things that governments find uncomfortable. The present UK government wants to go the way of Australia/Canada and screw us all for the sake of a few more oil dollars (or shale, whatever). The Met is more popular and more trusted than the government. This is just a part of the decision-making process, no doubt. No, I’m not into conspiracies, but this administration is transparently ‘anti’ climate mitigation and will spare no resource to undermine its critics.

  47. BBD says:

    Well, we are certainly watching the death of local democracy as far as planning consent goes.

    Big Frack is going to get what it wants and **** the little people.

  48. diessoli says:

    @Toneb
    ECMWF is not meso-scale but MetService run their own meso-scale models anyway – using GFS, ECMWF or UKMO for the boundary conditions.
    With open source models like WRF and the increase in compute power over the last decade it’s fairly easy even for small weather companies to run their own meso models.

  49. Toneb says:

    @diessoli
    They may run Meso models – but for the UK? They will have to be developed if not. However is the input from the senior forecasters on the bench that goes a (very) long way into determining what weighting they give to each model output. The Senior forecasters In the Ops Centre at Exeter have decades of UK weather knowledge among them. Many are still there after 9 years since I used to talk to them.
    The UKMO would be daft to sell their products to the next holder of the contract (but probably will). ECMWF will cost and, as you say, GFS is rather behind in accuracy.

  50. diessoli says:

    Hi Toneb,

    I am pretty sure they already do run meso models over the UK. Not entirely sure though. It’s 6 years now that I quit working for them. If they are not already they will be soon, I am sure.
    I’d also expect that they will try to poach some MO forecasters. AFAIK they also have been providing commercial forecast services to UK clients and will have some experience with model selection in-house.
    As far as data goes they will probably go with the GFS and EC models, but access to observations will be interesting. Unless they want to build their own network they will depend on MO data.
    Anyway a lot that is extrapolation from when I used to work in the field and not authoritative.

  51. Toneb says:

    Hi diessoli,

    It just bugs me that the UKMO has to support an observation network, fork out for supercomputers and develop a multitude of models (and very importantly – an assimilation scheme for them) and along comes a “slimmed” down organisation that gets to use (if not freely then at a cost that cannot meet the expense gone into producing it) that model data and “tweek” it to then pass it on via forecasters that have little experience (relative to MetO senior ones).
    I have a TV forecaster friend who says “I will probably leave the Met after 29 years and join BBC but not sure yet to be honest. There’s always Al Jezeera! ”
    I doubt VERY much that any “one the bench” forecasters will leave the security of the MetO and sign up with anyone else.
    One good thing I suppose is as the resident incumbent the UKMO of course gets vilified by the “glass-half-empty” types. They’ll have to find a different target now that someone else is so high profile in being 24/7 …. Because of course they expect weather forecasts to always be correct …. to which I reply “That’s just as impossible as always being correct”.

  52. Toneb says:

    Correction:
    They say that forecasts are always wrong…. to which I reply – “that’s just as impossible as always being correct”.

  53. It just bugs me that the UKMO has to support an observation network, fork out for supercomputers and develop a multitude of models (and very importantly – an assimilation scheme for them) and along comes a “slimmed” down organisation that gets to use

    I think this is a very valid point. We invest in an organisation like the Met Office, it becomes one the world’s leading such organisations, and then we just put that to one side and go with an organisation without the history or the expertise but that is able to piggy-back on what the Met Office has helped to develop. Seems very short-sighted and is probably what Richard Erskine has been suggesting is becoming the norm these days; prioritise short-term gain, rather than the considering the longer-term implications of the decisions we make today.

  54. Eli Rabett says:

    Toneb, given that the BBC contract supported a fair amount of MO infrastructure, folks may lose their jobs.

  55. BBD says:

    Seems very short-sighted and is probably what Richard Erskine has been suggesting is becoming the norm these days; prioritise short-term gain, rather than the considering the longer-term implications of the decisions we make today.

    Which (as ATTP knows I am sure) is *the* point, whether we are speaking of what has happened at the BBC or fracking overprinting local democracy, or CO2 emissions.

    Short termism will get us in the long run.

  56. Andrew dodds says:

    would just like to say, am currently sat in a tent on the SW Coast of the Isle of wight. I really, really want the model projections for the next 12 hours to be very, very wrong.

  57. Toneb says:

    Lets just say that I’m looking forward to the day when the UKMO issues a severe wx warning that conflicts with the new Beeb provider’s forecast. Or vice versa. Now that would be fun.

  58. Toneb says:

    Eli,
    The Met say not …. but they would wouldn’t they.
    Irrespective, the current on-screen forecasters (most UKMO employees) will have to resign and join the new provider or else they will be out on their ears.

  59. Toneb,
    There was also a suggestion that some of the money they make goes towards supporting other areas of research. If so, it would seem that it’s not only the on-screen forecasters who’s jobs might be at risk. Of course, the Met Office is a very large organisation, so I don’t know if the sums we’re talking about are small enough that it won’t have a particularly significant impact.

  60. Richard says:

    @BBD – The Government is a huge fan of local democracy … when it aligns with their prejudices (e.g. anti-wind or anti-solar sentiment whipped up by their friends in the tory dominated media), but decidedly lukewarm about it when it is not in favour of fracking, nuclear, or whatever. Richard E.

  61. BBD says:

    Richard

    The Government is a huge fan of local democracy … when it aligns with their prejudices

    That is certainly my impression.

    Once in a while I get castigated by contrarians who insist that the covert lobbying by vested interest and the policy decisions by political enablers on the right doesn’t constitute a subversion of democracy.

    I still think the contrarians are being naive.

  62. Richard says:

    Oh, and interestingly, the FT has had this piece from a Sussex Economist (no, not Professor Gremlin), highlighting the value of the public sector in innovation.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f4109fae-40df-11e5-b98b-87c7270955cf.html

    An old friend of mine who ran an ASIC chip design over 30 years ago in the UK used to spit blood at how Thatcher had destroyed a lot of the public investment in new technology.

    The Tories are no friend of innovation. They are testament to the snobbery and ignorance of science and engineering, and the antipathy for public enterprise. We do well in the UK despite of, not because of, Tory dogma.

    I am getting to the age where I go to parties where I hear stories from the recently retired – the éminence grise of British engineering – about world class yet decimated technical assets squandered at the alter of ‘privatization is best’.

    One recently was from an engineer retired from the electricity generation business. The new entity slimmed downed and outsourced almost everything, except a few of those grey haired folks to check quality.

    Guess what, when the battleship sized steel structures arrived from the far east – under the watchful eye of poor governance and the cheapest bid – Ooops, that welding looks pretty poor!! … 18 months later and 100s of millions of pounds over budget result. All due to some idiot with a spreadsheet thinking they were being clever. Its efficiency you see.

    Even for the much exalted French, with their nuclear prowess … what happened to that dodgy steel for EDF? How did that happen we ask? And still using that tired reactor design. Au Revoir Nuclear 2.0, welcome Nuclear 1.01.patch3

    It is what I characterise as the fragmentation of accountability coupled with the dilution of competence.

    Politicians never see this. They just see the glossy brochures. Being ‘suits’ they get seduced by ‘suits’. Worse, they never recognise what has been lost when it is gone, and even if they did, are unlikely to recognise its true value.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are many fantastic and wonderful private enterprises. But I agree with Mazzucato … we discard private enterprise at our peril.

  63. Richard says:

    … discard PUBLIC enterprise at our peril (sorry)

  64. Bob Loblaw says:

    As someone who has dealt with government procurement on “the other side of the pond”, and who knows a government forecaster or two, I can think of two things to say:
    1) many procurements that claim to want to find “value for money” do a pretty crappy job of of measuring value, and get it all wrong when trying to translate it into a number that can be compared to the cost in the bid…
    2) no matter where the BBC gets its forecasts, it’s going to be the UKMO that gets blamed when the real weather turns out to be different…

  65. Michael 2 says:

    “There are many other reasons why it may well be much better to stay as it is.”

    Not the least of which is possibly a failed expectation of “whose side” the new Met would take. But the same risk exists with new governments. In the end, whoever pays for it gets the reporting they want.

  66. izen says:

    The BBC paying the Met Office is an internal movement of taxpayer money, the BBC licence fee is effectively a flat property tax. The public monies are invested in UK institutions.

    Hiring a ‘cheaper’ foreign private business is directing public funds out of the UK economy.
    But then as Richard has so eloquently pointed out we have a government that does not see any value in the public sector in the economy.

  67. Yes, it does seem remarkable that we’re in a position where directing public funds to private companies outside the UK is seen as preferable to directing it to public organisations inside the UK.

  68. Colin says:

    Should the BBC pay for a Rolls Royce service when all we need is a Honda Civic? I don’t believe BBC viewers will notice the change. Forecasting is now good enough for most people.

  69. Colin,
    Maybe so, but how did it get to be good enough for most people?

  70. aTTP, been busy elsewhere but in reply to your reply, I think it’s an improvement in the US ones, not a degradation of the ECMWF, we had some satellite failures etc. The flirting with disaster by throwing out the baby with the bathwater is universal. They don’t want the info, but they need the weather forecasts. However, viz. Canada and elsewhere, firing experts does help obfuscate.

    There is genuine bad faith around. I know you like to think well of people, but one must look reality in the face.

  71. Susan,

    I know you like to think well of people, but one must look reality in the face.

    Don’t worry, I’m getting there 🙂

  72. Pingback: Piers Corbyn, his brother and communist weather forecaster – Stoat

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