“That’s Yer Lot!” is something I was told when I was a child if my parents thought I was being greedy. I am sure it it something many parents have told their glutinous offspring in this country through the generations. It also perfectly sums up the apparent attitude of BBC North West Tonight’s Programmers and presenters to viewers in the northern half of their transmission area.
At the weekend, there was a South Cumbrian tragedy that BBC North West and indeed ITV Granada could not ignore. A 37 year-old man and his two children (and the family’s dog) were mowed down and killed by a drunk driver near Barrow-in-Furness. However, it is fair to assume that had this tragedy occurred somewhere like the A66 near Appleby-in-Westmorland or on the A595 near St. Bees Head (West Cumbria) it would not have been given any mention on BBC North West Tonight- because they don’t cover anything outside their “Patch”: About 18 years ago, four teenagers were out for a late-night drive on the A6 midway between Penrith and Carlisle- and they crashed at high speed. All the teenage occupants died at the scene but none of this got any mention on BBC North West Tonight despite it being just 25 miles beyond the transmission area of BBC North West! The fact that northern Cumbria is still part of North West England and the fact that potentially 200,000 South Cumbrian viewers of BBC North West Tonight might want to know about such a serious happening in their own county did not seem to register.
Neither did BBC North West Tonight really cover the fact that hundreds of farmers lost their livelihoods even in just a two-week period during the Foot and Mouth Crisis during April 2001: North West viewers had to find out about how Foot and Mouth wiped out farming in the Eden Valley in Cumbria from the National News- possibly giving hundreds of folk the impression that the crisis was much further away than it actually was, whilst infuriating many thousands of other viewers who might have expected North West Tonight to cover such a crisis in more detail. In the end, the best they got was a one-off poorly advertised programme on BBC2 at 7.30 pm (five months after the Foot and Mouth Crisis did its worst) and shown in both the BBC North West and BBC North East/ Cumbria Regions. And over the last few months, BBC North West Tonight has given little real coverage of the impact of Coronavirus and the associated Lockdown on different Cumbrian communities.
Returning to today, the one and only item of news- coverage about Cumbria is around the father and two children who lost their lives in Barrow on Sunday 21st June- and the fact that the 47 year-old man who killed three members of the same family has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving. This was a truly awful tragedy, but one that BBC North West Tonight would likely not have covered had it occurred in northern or West Cumbria. Anyway, there was another tragedy today in Cumbria- a 70 year-old man who went missing yesterday was today found dead at Rawthey Bridge, near Sedbergh (we are talking South Cumbria here so within BBC North West’s transmission area). The actual impression that is given to Cumbrian viewers of its programming is that BBC North West saying “We have covered Cumbria extensively in the last few days…Therefore we are covering no other Cumbrian news”.
So Cumbrian viewers have what is in effect the same item of news-coverage appearing a few times…and that seems to count, as far as BBC North West is concerned, as “More than their fair share”. Eighteen months ago, there was the case of an eighteen month-old baby girl who died tragically. She was called Poppi Worthington and both her and her father (who was suspected of killing her) lived in Barrow in Furness. Effectively the same news item, about this little girl’s death, dragged on for months. It featured on BBC North West Tonight intermittently as “The one story about Cumbria you are getting today”, in between other days with clearly nothing about Cumbria at all on BBC North West Tonight.
One is left with the distinct impression that Programmers and editors for both BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada don’t like to go up to Cumbria from the Salford Quays headquarters too often- because Cumbria is over an hours’ drive away. So, if they can get away with using the same story, and just getting Cumbria Police to send in little bits of new information to make it seem different- that is perhaps what they will do. I’ll add a disclaimer that I don’t actually think BBC North West editors and reporters are that bad: However the use of one story over a period of time to pass as “Multiple items of news coverage for Cumbria” it is one piece of evidence to support justification of Boris Johnson’s radical “Levelling Up” Conservative Government to intone to the Directors and Program Editors at the BBC- that they must create that new BBC North West Region covering just Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man!