BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada: Coverage is Really Not Good Enough for the Northern Half of North West England.

To get an accurate picture of how well the northern two- thirds of North West England are getting covered by Regional Television one has to watch it over a period of time. You get the odd day when two items of news- coverage about Cumbria might be covered in the main evening bulletins followed by a week or more with nothing. So it has been since before the weekend for those viewers in South Cumbria who get BBC North West output and, if they were unable to get ITV Border then ITV Granada did not cover Cumbria either!

To be fair, Lancashire is being covered very well at present, if only as a consequence of the spike in Coronavirus in Blackburn and the Pendle area of East Lancashire – and the local response to it. There was also coverage of plans for all 15 local District Councils in Lancashire to be amalgamated into just three larger areas to pave the way for Lancashire getting an elected mayor and there was even an item of coverage about the village of Dolphinholme in the north of Lancashire. Laxey Wheel, at the northern end of the Isle of Man was also covered but, alas, there was nothing about Cumbria.

So the metropolitan areas in the south of North West England got covered very well on BBC North West Tonight, with the news presented tonight by the outgoing Annabel Tiffin. The south- of- middle areas of the North West of England- i.e. Lancashire have also done well in terms of coverage and the Isle of Man got a mention too. But despite two items put on the BBC North West Twitter feed- about the St Bernard dog being rescued off Scafell Pike and the fell-runner Beth Pascall breaking the women’s record for the Lake District Challenge (see here: none of these have actually been broadcast on BBC North West Tonight so far this week. Links to three items of news about Coronavirus in Carlisle on the ITV Granada Twitter page last week could also have got a South Cumbrian’s hopes up- only for them to be dashed when it is clear there is nothing about Cumbria on ITV Granada Reports or on their online news- page. The disappointed viewer would have had to look at ITV Border’s news- page to find these news items about Coronavirus in Carlisle. However, if the viewer is not computer-literate lives in a part of South Cumbria that does not have ITV Border, only ITV Granada then it’s hard luck for them!

But it is not the point. If Cumbria is effectively omitted from coverage night after night it shows that BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports are not covering half the North West Region. If BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada advertise as covering the North West of England- they must be seen to cover all of North West England. The English North West Region stretches from Crewe in Cheshire right up to the Scottish Border, north of Carlisle- and notwithstanding that folk in northern Cumbria don’t receive North West Regional Television programming- the entire area should be covered in Regional output.

This matters because Cumbria is not only a major tourist destination for day-trips for folk living in Lancashire and northern Greater Manchester but because what happens in Cumbria does have direct implications for folk living in other parts of North West England. If, for instance, lead or arsenic was discovered being leached into Haweswater or Thirlmere in the Lake District- both just a couple of miles outside the BBC North West transmission area- then that has major public health issues for most people living in Lancashire and Manchester because these are reservoirs that supply much of North West England with their mains water- supply! If there is a massive snowstorm and blizzards in winter shutting the M6 at Shap (or even if the snowstorm did not shut the M6 and caused snowy roads in Cumbria) people living an hour further south (i.e Lancashire and northern Greater Manchester) need to be warned about the dangerous driving conditions if they are heading north. If there is a dangerous man rampaging across Keswick, Penrith and then Appleby on a warm sunny Saturday morning in August should potential tourists from Lancashire not be warned of the perils of heading north?

Much, if not most, of Cumbria is Regionally Local to about two million people who live in Lancashire, including Wigan, Bolton and Southport (Regionally Local is within an hour’s drive or travel time- the sort of time and distances folk will travel for a day-trip or to take the kids for a special trip to visit nanna for the day): This is a cogent reason why Cumbria should be on BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada- in addition to the fact that people who live in South Cumbria need to hear more about what is happening locally.

Over the last month there has in fact been some quite shocking happenings across Cumbria- quite aside from the father and two children mowed down by a drunk driver at Dalton in Furness, in the south of the county. A man called Lee McKnight was murdered near Carlisle over the weekend. Two adults and a child had to be rescued by Patterdale Mountain Rescue from Hallin Fell in the Lake District in the middle of the night (after their tent blew away). An illegal immigrant was discovered at a major cannabis farm at Maryport in West Cumbria (and the North West is more likely to be the market for he drugs, than the North East due to relative proximity) and a woman called Shelly Clark was murdered in Egremont last week. None of these news stories made BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports (even though some of the news- items were no more than 15 miles north of their transmission areas), though at least some of this news should have been broadcast just to warn people- who might be more likely than most of England to travel to Cumbria- what was happening in that county.

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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