Both BBC North West Tonight and BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) seem to Neglect their Northern Ends!

Both BBC North West Tonight and BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) failed viewers in the northern halves of their respective transmission areas this evening (27th July), even though the news- presenters (Annabel Tiffin on BBC North West Tonight, Carol Malia on BBC Look North) have a good rapport with their respective audiences. BBC Look North covered the rescue of a St. Bernard dog from Scafell Pike in Cumbria (actually just inside the BBC North West transmission area), but this was not covered on BBC North West Tonight. Two other items about Cumbria also appeared on BBC Look North, none of which made BBC North West Tonight (BBC North West still very rarely cover any Cumbrian news even a few miles north of their transmission area).

Now programmers at BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) do go out of their way to cover parts of South Cumbria and southern North Yorkshire to the south and south-west of their transmission area for the benefit of viewers in the south and southwest of their transmission area. However, they do not at all cover even quite serious news- events only a few miles over the Scottish Border into southern Scotland for the benefit of viewers in northern Northumberland: Thus, northern Northumberland and indeed the extreme north of Cumbria does not get good all- round local news- coverage. Furthermore, there was nothing about rural mid and northern Northumberland on BBC Look North this evening. News on repairs to the Union Chain bridge over the River Tweed is about the only (and most northerly) news item on BBC Look North in recent days- and being right on the Scottish Border is about as far into the Scottish Borders BBC Look North will ever go!

What precisely is it that Regional news- programmers in the North East and North West of England seem to have against providing news from a bit further north for the benefit of their more northern viewers? And why do northern areas have to suffer a poorer local news- service because they happen to live miles away from the cities? If it is deemed necessary to provide overlap coverage southwards from the BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) transmission zone, it is also necessary to provide some overlap northwards from the transmission area for the benefit of folk in the north of the BBC Region. By extension, it is also essential that people living in South Cumbria, who receive BBC North West output, get to know about significant events further north (and still within the same county). Would not viewers of BBC North West Tonight who live in South Cumbria be more interested in the St Bernard dog needing rescuing from Scafell Pike- than those who live in Newcastle upon Tyne?

People who live in the Northern Regions of Britain are proud of their “Northernness”, and good Regional Programmers will recognise this. Anything that enhances the “Northernness” of viewers, recognising it properly and not diminishing it will make viewers in the northern Regions of Britain feel better about themselves, more complete. So, viewers in South Cumbria who watch BBC North West Tonight will feel a bit diminished if their area is not covered but there’s 85% coverage of places that many who live in Cumbria may scarcely qualify as “North West England”, on the other hand overlap coverage of northern Cumbria would be a means of recognising that they live in one of the most northerly counties of England.

Likewise for viewers of BBC Look North in Northumberland, coverage of their area demonstrates to them that BBC Look North recognises their unique position and that theirs is a large, diverse community (even if less populated than the cities further south). Overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders would demonstrate full recognition of the fact that North Northumbrians have strong links across the Scottish border- some of which date back centuries. Viewers of BBC Look North and ITV Tyne Tees who live in rural Northumberland must also feel their Northern pride diminished if 95% of news- coverage is of places 60 or more miles to their south.

It is a known fact that people who live in the northern half of England, anywhere from Birmingham northwards are more ready to identify as “Northern” than “From the Midlands” and once you get into the North West of England folk are happy to disassociate their area from communities further south (i.e. “That’s the Midlands” or even “That’s Down South!”) but places further north are part of “The North”. There are, for instance, folk who live in Cumbria or Northumberland who consider Manchester to be in the Midlands (see here for an example: )but who are very happy to watch ITV Border’s Lookaround even though it covers southern Scotland in its output (if they can get the programme). There are cultural reasons for this, as many folk living in Scotland and northern England consider people who live in the southern half of England (or even well to the south of where they live) to be posh or (at worst) stuck-up and irrelevant to their lives. Secondly, being included in a more “Northerly” Region makes folk living in the northern half of England feel like there is recognition of how tough, gritty and “Northern” their area actually is. It is not dissimilar (psychologically) to a young man wanting to hang out in a gang with men who are bigger, tougher and cooler than he is- because it makes him feel and look tough and cool: The tougher and cooler men might not want to hang out with him, but that young man would not want to associate with anyone that he considered inferior to him either.

So, folk living in (say) Kendal are happy to watch ITV Border- with considerable coverage of southern Scotland (if they can get it), but they don’t really like ITV Granada with 90% of news that they might only reluctantly consider to be “North West news” and also consider to be irrelevant to their concerns: The TV aerials in South Cumbria tend not to point south where they can get ITV Border! The outrage that ensued around Carlisle when northern Cumbria was switched to receive BBC North West Tonight in the late 1980’s is certainly understandable in that context.

Since folk living in the northern halves of North West and North East England want more Immediate Local news, and a bit more coverage of significant events further north than them- it is to be hoped that the respective BBC and ITV Regional News programmers for these areas are made aware of the strong preferences of their more northerly viewers.

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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