BBC Met Office axe blamed on budget cuts

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The BBC is being forced to axe its long-standing weather forecasting contract with the Met Office because the Government is making it absorb spending cuts, Labour has claimed.

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant accused the Government of “cutting off its nose to spite its face” because he said the resulting shortfall in funding for the Met Office will have to be met by taxpayers.

Mr Bryant suggested the BBC is going to make more “unnecessary and unfortunate” cuts to services because of Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to make it meet the £750 million-a-year cost of free TV licences for the over-75s.

He said the Met Office costs roughly £200 million, with around £32.5 million coming from commercial deals and the rest from taxpayers.

The ending of the BBC deal will mean the public picks up the shortfall in Met Office funding, Mr Bryant said.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “If the money is not coming from the BBC then somebody else is going to have to pay, ie the taxpayer is going to have to pay instead of the licence fee payer.

“We have to have that (the Met Office’s services) so the £200 million is now going to be met entirely by the taxpayer. It seems an own goal to me.”

Negotiations between the BBC and Met Office to renew the weather deal have hit a dead end and a new firm is expected to take over next year.

The BBC has said it is legally required to secure the best value for money for licence fee payers.

But the move brings to an end a relationship that has seen the Met Office provide weather services, including presenters and graphics, to the BBC for nearly a century.