The North West of England Proper: Perspectives on Regional Television output.

19th May 2018

Dear Readers,

I aim to look at how the perception of Regional Programming changes within the North West of England that those making the programmes need to bear in mind. What people in the North West of England consider to be “North West” will vary as one travels north from Cheshire, through Greater Manchester, northwards to Lancashire and then into Cumbria. What viewers in Cumbria and the northern half of Lancashire must consider to be the North West proper- is that it is those areas with the Irish Sea, rather than Wales to the west and for which it is very clear that they are not in the Midlands in any way shape or form.

Thus viewers of Regional Television in Kendal or Carnforth will have a different perspective of what North West England is than viewers in Macclesfield or Malpas:  The viewers in Kendal and Carnforth would consider full coverage of the entire North West Region to extend right up to the Scottish Border, north of Carlisle whilst Cheshire viewers would consider coverage as far north as the South Lakes and Barrow to be more than adequate- but they would expect that coverage to include northern Staffordshire, Shropshire and even north-east Wales because they would consider such locations as “North West”- even though north-east Wales is clearly not part of North West England. On the flip side of that viewers of North West Regional Television in Cumbria or northern Lancashire could be quite annoyed that their regional news covers any part of Wales or Staffordshire whilst giving little coverage of Cumbria or northern Lancashire.

For viewers of North West Regional Television in South Cumbria, the North West of England includes all of their county of Cumbria right up to the Scottish border but they really might not consider Cheshire to be in the North West; they would certainly not consider northern Derbyshire (which is covered in BBC North West and ITV Granada output) to be part of the North West. Many North Cumbrians in fact consider Manchester to be in the Midlands- which is why they reacted so vehemently against receiving BBC North West Tonight (with its Manchester- Liverpool heavy news-output) in the late 1980’s !

It is vital that both the BBC and ITV Granada provide a North West Regional news service tailored to their viewers in all parts of their transmission area. If this requires further efficiencies from both organisations to make monies available for opt-out or indeed separate regional programming for their more northerly viewers to achieve the aim of making regional output relevant and fitting for all their viewers, then so be it.

The Isle of Man, by the way, is a separate nation state in its own right. It deserves and needs its own opt-out programming out from the main BBC North West and ITV Granada output.

Ian Pennell

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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