This week sees a big improvement in Regional news- coverage for the northern two- thirds of North West England. Now, I don’t know whether some of the programme- producers are now aware of this Website, but today in particular there were two items of coverage concerning Cumbria and five news- items concerning Lancashire on BBC North West Tonight. Roger Johnson, the main news- presenter did have good news! For a rare change, Manchester and Cheshire were the counties overlooked and Merseyside just got two items of coverage. ITV Granada have also improved their coverage of the northern two thirds of North West England with two items about Carlisle on their Twitter feed- if that is a statement of intent that is good for making sure viewers at the northern periphery of their transmission area get better all- round news- coverage.
On BBC North West Tonight, the ongoing developments concerning rising Coronavirus cases in Blackburn, but also in the Pendle area and in Rochdale received extensive coverage- and there was coverage of a former Textile firm in Blackburn re-adapted to provide millions of face- masks (ahead of it becoming compulsory for all of us to wear one in the shops from Friday 24th July). In addition the new so- called Eden tourist attraction near Morecambe was covered, the appointment of a new leader on Blackpool Council was also mentioned. Furthermore, the case of a young lady from Clitheroe who successfully sued her former employers for redundancy pay (on the grounds that she was- in effect- an employee even though she was officially self- employed). That is good news, not just for the young lady, but for many folk who are made to register as self- employed so that those they work for don’t have to pay Employer contributions to Pensions, Employer National Insurance contributions, etc. – some firms even use this ruse to get round paying the Minimum Wage! Anyway, without digressing, Lancashire getting five out of ten items of news- coverage on the main BBC North West Tonight bulletin is almost unheard of- may there be more such evening bulletins!
In addition to the five news- items about Lancashire were two about Cumbria on BBC North West Tonight. The first covered the impact of Coronavirus Lockdown (and the slow relaxing of restrictions) upon the hospitality industry in the South Lakes- incidentally I have been to the Low Wood Hotel near Windermere (one of the hotels featured), not just once but twice (both work- related and back in 2002). The second item of coverage about Cumbria covered tourist trains on the Settle to Carlisle Railway- and the journey as far as Appleby was featured (Appleby is some 15 miles north of the BBC North West transmission area): Thus, a part of Cumbria that does not get a lot of coverage was covered, though it might have been nice if BBC North West Tonight last month mentioned the cancellation of Appleby Fair- so that hundreds of Gypsies did not end up making a wasted journey (more on this here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/06/12/the-north-west-gypsies-not-told-about-appleby-fair/). The Ribblehead Viaduct also featured in the report on the Settle to Carlisle Railway – even though that is just over the border into North Yorkshire.
ITV Granada’s links to Carlisle news on it’s Twitter feed concerns the recent rise in cases of Coronavirus in the North Cumbrian city. Since ITV Granada’s transmission area stops just a couple of miles south of Kendal, it means Granada shows a willingness to at least provide mention of a part of North Cumbria some 50 miles north of it’s transmission boundary. Correctly, the news- programmers at ITV Granada recognise that what is happening in Carlisle is serious and that folk in the north of the ITV Granada transmission area need to be warned should they want to make a day- trip just under an hour up the M6 (or travel by train to the city). Carlisle and the immediate surrounding area are just inside of an hour’s drive up the motorway from towns like Carnforth in North Lancashire and Milnthorpe in South Cumbria and are thus Regionally Local (see my article on Localness: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/07/19/introducing-the-localness-onion-immediate-local-and-regionally-local-and-its-relevance-to-regional-news/). ITV Granada are therefore right to draw their viewers’ (and readers’) attention to the fact that there are risks associated with travelling to Carlisle, just as there are risks of travelling to Blackburn, the Pendle area and Rochdale.
It is to be hoped that evenings like this- with a higher coverage of more northerly parts of North West England in the North West Regional news- bulletins- mark a shift to greater coverage of Lancashire and Cumbria. However, we have had these “false dawns” before- so in order for there to be a genuine shift towards greater coverage of Cumbria and Lancashire it needs to be made known to the BBC in North West England and ITV Granada (by large numbers of local viewers) that what they are getting still falls well short of what is acceptable in terms of coverage overall. This is especially true at a time when the BBC is under financial pressure and they are tempted to cut Regional news- programming to save money!