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Private company to take over BBC Weather contract: BBC assures presenters will be staying

Nearly a year since it was first announced that the Met Office would be losing its contract with the BBC, this week's confirmation of a new supplier has confirmed that the strongest alternative contender in the race has won the contract.

The winner, MeteoGroup, is a UK-based company, previously owned by the Press Association, and already provides the weather for Sky News, many UK newspapers and Channel 4. Online, MeteoGroup operates websites including Rain Today and Weathercast.

In the past, MeteoGroup has been described as a foreign company in some tabloid outlets, despite having been indirectly owned by most major British newspapers through their connection with the Press Association. And this incorrect claim has stuck among some of the most vehement opposers to the change in BBC Weather supplier, with some claiming they will no longer tune in to BBC Weather in the future.

The BBC has moved quickly to squash reports that the change will mean the loss of its current weather presenters, confirming that "the vast majority" of presenters will continue to be seen and heard across the BBC as they transfer to the new contract.

In addition to supplying the BBC's weather information as part of the new contract from next Spring, MeteoGroup will also be in charge of the BBC Weather graphics.

Since the current incarnation of the graphics were first rolled out in 2004, they have remained unpopular with some viewers, partly due to the "tilt" of the UK, which is viewed as if you were in space looking northwards across the country, resulting in Scotland appearing much smaller. Others complain about the lack of traditional weather symbols on TV, which are used on the BBC's online and mobile weather services.

Nigel Charters, who was in charge of the BBC Weather re-procurement process, remained cagey about what, if anything would change in the graphics front when he announced MeteoGroup's success, saying: "We’ll also be using MeteoGroup’s graphics system so that our brilliant weather presenters can easily design and manage content themselves creating great images for TV and online."

The Met Office will continue to be used to supply weather warnings and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will continue to be involved for the BBC's shipping forecasts.

When it first emerged last August that the BBC would not be offering a new contract to the Met Office, it was claimed that the Met Office were demanding too much money and there were accusations about the broadcaster being unhappy over "dumbed down weather forecasting", all of which were flatly denied. The Met Office were slammed in 2009 for claiming that there would be a 'barbeque summer', a long-range forecast given much prominence on BBC weather outlets, only for the summer to turn distinctly soggy.

Meanwhile, the BBC says the new contract will save them millions of pounds a year. With the BBC becoming responsible for covering the cost of free TV licences for the over 75s by the end of the decade, it is unlikely that any of the cost savings will be able to be passed back to programme making.