Disclaimer: I write this as the owner of weather.co.za - a privately held weather forecasting site that has definite plans to extend it's offerings to launch and produce it's own weather forecasts and warning data very soon. The weather bill can and will be used by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and it's heavily connected private sister-company Weather Intelligence Systems (Pty) Ltd. to fight off private competition as my site could become.
Less than a week before the final hearings, the proposed SA weather service amendment bill, 2011 does finally make some headlines and gets attention by the DA MP Gareth Morgan, FW De Clerk Foundation and many other affected parties.
"Only the Weather Service may issue severe weather-related warnings over South Africa in order to ensure that there is a single authoritative voice in this regard."
is what the South African Weather Service Act already says since 2001. As if this questionable decision, that lacks any legally binding definition of a 'severe weather-related warning' isn't enough the new amendment is now supposed to add the following section 30A that reads:
(1) No person may
(a) issue a severe weather or air pollution-related warning without the necessary written permission from the Weather Service;
(b) supply false or misleading information about the Weather Service;
(c) unlawfully, intentionally or negligently commit any act or omission which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the Weather Service.
(2) A person who contravenes any provisions of subsection (1), is guilty of an offence and is liable, in the case of a first conviction, to a fine not exceeding five million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding ten million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or in both instances to both such fine and such imprisonment, respectively.
As the SA weather service amendment bill is so outrageous and wrong, I just sent the following letter to the parliament, just in time for the public hearing, that I will attend January 17 and 18:
I heavily object to the new weather service amendment bill and ask parliament to review essential clauses to understand what this bill does to any legitimate competitor to South African Weather Service (SAWS) or their licensing customers:
- South African might become the first country in the world where there is a state guaranteed monopoly for weather services. In my humble opinion does South Africa not need less, but more competition to guarantee a better forecasting quality, than we currently get.
- The SAWS must by law adhere to The World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40 that urges Members to: "Strengthen their commitment to the free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological and related data and products" and specially states in Annex 3 "The purpose of these guidelines is to further improve the relationship between NMSs and the commercial sector. The development of the exchange of meteorological and related information depends greatly upon sound, fair, transparent, and stable relations between these two sectors.". This bill clearly does NOT help fair relations between SAWS and private competition!
- The bill does not define "Severe weather warning". SAWS can use to scare clients by way of fine if they use any other forecast service other than SAWS and thereby creating a monopoly. Also, what would be considered "false" information? There is no 100% accurate weather forecast.
- SAWS already acts and markets themselves as "The ONLY accurate source of SA weather" and take a very similar stance when negotiating with third parties over licensing terms. Their self-conception is NOT matched by their accuracy and I hope to bring some fresh competitive comparison with me to the parliamentary hearing next week.
- The insertion of Clause 28A is also of great concern. The minister can change the act without going through parliment. Really not fair since this can change legislation even further to keep competitors out.
The offenses clause and clause 28A in the Bill needs to be removed and I ask parliament to rethink the current policy on "one single authoritative voice" in regards to severe weather warnings.
owner of weather.co.za