BBC North West Tonight, BBC Look North (North East and Cumbria), ITV Granada and ITV Tyne Tees can improve coverage at the margins of their transmission areas at little extra cost.

15th July 2020

Dear Readers

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:

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.

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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