15th July 2020
BBC North West Tonight was presented by the excellent Roger Johnson with flamboyant Owain Wyn Evans presenting the weather- forecast. Meanwhile on BBC Look North (NE & Cumbria) Carol Malia presented the news with the seasoned- meteorologist Paul Mooney providing a detailed weather- forecast. The news- presenters and weather- forecasters for the BBC North West and North East Regions are very good.
The Regional News coverage could be considered fine if you live in Manchester or Liverpool, or if you lived in Tyneside in the North East of England: Your city or surrounding towns and cities are likely to be covered well in your respective BBC Regions. But tonight both BBC North West Tonight and BBC Look North (NE and Cumbria) failed their respective Cumbrian viewers- in both BBC Regional bulletins Cumbria got not one mention out of ten- eleven news-items. Rural Northumberland got one mention on BBC Look North with a piece on disappearing telephone booths in Rothbury and in the foothills of the Cheviots- that’s one out of ten news- items. On numerous recent occasions rural Northumberland gets no coverage whatsoever on BBC Look North (see my previous post: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/07/15/a-large-region-of-northern-britain-covering-southern-scotland-and-rural-northumberland-effectively-sidelined-by-the-bbc/).
A number of problems with local news- coverage for places at the margins of BBC Regional transmission areas- i.e. parts of Cumbria in both BBC North West and BBC North East/ Cumbria transmission areas and rural Northumberland in the north of the BBC North East/ Cumbria transmission area- can easily be solved at little (or no extra overall cost) by using two simple policies:
The first policy is that of collaborating with news- outlets in the transmission boundaries (for instance, BBC Radio Cumbria can be a ready source of news- material for both the BBC North West and BBC NE/ Cumbria Regions). All that remains is for Regional News- Editors to follow- up and up-load/ down-load material. The second policy could save the BBC some money, and it involves sharing major/ significant news- items close to the transmission margins of a BBC Region with a neighbouring BBC Region. For example, if BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) cover a snow-storm trapping twenty elderly bus- passengers stranded on Shap summit on the M6 in Cumbria, the complete news-item is shared with BBC North West where programmers would also include it on BBC North West Tonight. BBC North West Tonight don’t then have the expense of sourcing the material, just of making sure there is space in the main evening bulletin to cover the Cumbrian news- item for the benefit of their viewers who live in the south of Cumbria.
It is possible for significant savings to be made whilst ensuring that folk living away from the main cities and near the transmission boundaries get better coverage. For the BBC, beefing up the BBC Cumbria and BBC Newcastle (including Northumberland) operations to ensure BBC Local Radio reporters can send in quality “Video with Reporter” coverage of events in Cumbria and rural Northumberland would not cost more than £20,000 per year for each of the BBC Local Radio outlets: It’s the cost of a part-time reporter and some video- recording equipment. However, if these produce significant reports to be shared between two or more BBC Regions: For instance, a major bus crash on the M6 near Carlisle leading to several fatalities, would be of interest to people living up to an hour’s drive away in all directions- so if BBC Look North (NE and Cumbria) produced the news-report, then it should be shared with BBC North West Tonight and BBC Reporting Scotland.
Collaboration between BBC North East/ Cumbria and BBC Scotland could (likewise) result in the sharing of news- coverage of Northumberland and southern Scotland- with the aim of ensuring that folk who live close to the Scottish Border get much better all- round and localised news- coverage.
The BBC Regional programmers could then do other things to make sure rural areas -away from the cities gain room for such coverage: One is to cut a minute off the ubiquitous Sports coverage (there are multiple other television channels offering Sports) and also to cut a minute off the Two-minutes-to Seven “BBC Evening Programme Preview”. The cost of doing this would be negligible and it would free up space for BBC North West to cover a couple of items about Cumbria/ North Lancashire and for BBC North East/ Cumbria to put in a couple of items about rural Northumberland and the Scottish borders.
Taken together, all these measures (for little more than £20,000 per year) would result in significantly improved local and all- round news-coverage for people living in the north of the transmission areas of both BBC North West and BBC North East.
The main ITV Regions for both North West and North East England, i.e. ITV Granada and ITV Tyne-Tees don’t really need to pay for more reporters or equipment to improve news- coverage in the north of their respective transmission areas. ITV Border is a ready source of news- material covering Cumbria, Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Scottish Borders: It’s just a matter of juggling a bit more space in the main bulletins to fit in a news-item or two about Cumbria into Granada Reports and a couple of items about Berwick and the Scottish Borders into ITV News Tyne Tees.