A new BBC North West Region for Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man

On 27th September 2004 a new BBC Region, BBC Look North (East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire) with their broadcasting centre based in Hull was born. This new BBC Region was transmitted to East Yorkshire, parts of North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and it catered for a potential 1.5 million viewers. This new BBC Region, whose viewers previously received their Regional output from Leeds, provided more localised news for 1.5 million viewers who objected to getting over 70% (or more) coverage about Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Doncaster and parts of Derbyshire that were over an hours’ drive away whilst having little coverage of their own area.

Today, there is a need for another new BBC North West Region because viewers in Lancashire and Cumbria have the same issues with BBC (and ITV) Regional output from the huge one-size-to-fit-all BBC and ITV North West Regional News Programming as those in Hull and East Yorkshire had prior to 2004. Today Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man (along with large towns like Southport, Wigan and Bolton where viewers consider themselves to be “Lancashire”) has a potential viewer population close to 2.5 million inhabitants and this area is similarly starved of good localised coverage. The BBC objects on the grounds of cost to giving the entire area a new BBC Region, but they did it for East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire at a time when the BBC had (arguably) less resources than it enjoys today (the Coronavirus Recession is not likely to change that, even if the BBC has to tighten its belt like other organisations).

If we start with the assumption that the new BBC Region is expensive, at about £10 million annually to pay for a studio, recording equipment, reporters, editors, presenters- along with back-office staff like cleaners and clerks- that works out at about 40 pence for all TV License- payers in Britain and £1.20 annually for each TV Licence payer if we are to have two new BBC Regions for the North and NE of Scotland (though, to be fair, Scottish TV now provides four Regional news services for different parts of Scotland and south-west Scotland is covered by ITV Border Television). During the Austerity programme of 2020-2015 the BBC was required to cut its total budget by 20%- cutting out back-office functions and amalgamating some of their offices. That was over £500 million per annum, yet it achieved it. It could, if it found the will, make a 1% saving to its budget by bearing down on waste and bureaucracy to free up £30 billion a year to go to the front-line news-services and pay for three more BBC Television Regions.

Now ITV receives no direct funding from British TV License-payers like the BBC does. However, it maintains ITV Border, ITV Channel (Channel Islands population is just over 170,000) and the Ulster TV (which caters solely for Northern Ireland- population of just 1.8 million)- all from advertising. Why can’t the BBC do it for Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man? Indeed, as ITV have managed to create and sustain self-funding ITV Regions with populations of less than two million (and with a UK economy in the past smaller than anything likely nowadays- even with Coronavirus Recession), just why cant ITV Granada be split with Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man getting their own ITV North West Region?

Viewers of Regional Television in Cumbria and Lancashire has been short-changed for long enough. A new BBC North West Region, complete with opt-outs for Cumbria and the Isle of Man, would ensure that viewers in Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man would each get 50% or more output of their own area. Overlap zones for news coverage beyond the transmission boundary could provide one in ten news items covering an area including Manchester/ Liverpool to the south and southern Scotland/ Northumberland to the north. This is so that folk at the periphery of the transmission area find out about major happenings still local to them but which are outside the transmission area of the new BBC North West Region.

Northern Cumbria, which currently receives programming from Newcastle would be transferred to the new BBC North West Region and would get Cumbrian- tailored coverage in the opt-outs, which would bring massive improvements for localised and all-round news coverage for viewers in Carlisle and the North Lakes.

Published by northwestisnorthwest

My name is Ian Pennell and I am a freelance Book-keeper: I live near Alston, in the North Pennines in north-east Cumbria. I have friends who live in northern North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 17 years ago) and in other parts of Cumbria. I have two Website Campaigns that seek to promote more localised Regional TV coverage for large rural areas across the North of North West England and North East England. . A big problem is that the Regional Television Bulletins for the North West covers the southern third of the Region about 90% (plus a part of Derbyshire which is NOT the North West of England), covers the middle third of North West England poorly and covers the northern third of North West England not at all! When I was studying at Lancaster University, I used to watch BBC1 North West Tonight because it covered areas up around where I was brought up- in northern Cumbria as well as more immediately locally around Lancaster. Then I came home one day, turned on BBC1 North West Tonight wondering why they were silent on Cumbria and discovered why: Most of Cumbria had been chopped off the weather-map! . People living in the westernmost part of North West England (around St. Bees Head) have local BBC news on their televisions which is 90% about North East England! In rural and northern Northumberland too, Regional TV, as is received by viewers, tends too often to be Tyneside/ Wearside/ Teesside- focussed with little news locally. Communities in North Northumberland have strong links across the Border into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh but none of the Regional TV News- services serving Northumberland today ever goes across the Scottish Border for significant happenings of interest to North Northumbrians. I have also done walking in the area, including around the Cheviots in the past- and the Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ East and Mid Lothian area is vast- but it is largely overlooked by mainstream Regional TV! . North Yorkshire, the largest county in England also falls in the gaps between coverage from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees in the north of the county, and the Leeds-based BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV- services in the south of the county: North Yorkshire is a huge, yet beautiful county, which I have visited and explored in the past, yet is poorly covered in Regional TV. . Based near Alston, near the Cumbria/ Northumberland boundary I am well-placed to discuss Regional TV in all these large rural areas, in which collectively some two million folk live, yet they are poorly covered by the Regional TV News- services set up to serve them. These huge areas are an hour to two hours' drive from where I live: North Lancashire and South/ West Cumbria are to the south-west, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and Lothian are to the north and north-east, and North Yorkshire is to the south-east of my home near Alston. I am well-placed to draw attention to deficiencies in Regional TV coverage for folk in all these areas. The North Pennines, where I live, is arguably another large area that touches on the other three where Regional TV coverage falls through the gaps completely (and that is despite the North Pennines running north to south down the middle of the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria Region). . In two websites, one for northern North West England and the Isle of Man (a country in it's own right that does not have it's own TV service!), and another Website focussing on Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the North Pennines I make the point that Regional TV that informs viewers of important things in their local area is a Public Service, funding for which should be given a higher priority (and if necessary via statute through the BBC's Charter), than funding for Soaps, Films or Sport- which are for leisure. I also give viewers the tools to fight effectively for better- and more geographic-appropriate Regional TV where they live- and to seek it through alternative (often little-known) local TV services, some of which may only be available on the Internet.

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