That’s another whole week without Cumbria featuring in either BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada

Watched Annabel Tiffin presenting BBC North West Tonight again this evening. Whilst one cannot state other than that Annabel Tiffin and her colleague Roger Johnson (the main News Presenter) have an excellent rapport with the viewers- and no doubt they bring some warmth and happiness to many elderly folk living alone in these difficult times, the North West of England is not at all covered in its entirety. Cumbria has now gone a week without any coverage at all on the North West’s flagship BBC Regional News programme!

It’s a similar story with ITV Granada Reports, where the main presenter Lucy Meacock also has a good rapport with the viewers. Cumbria has not even been mentioned on the news- programme for over a week. What is galling is how they effectively said the Eden District of Cumbria is not in the North West (it was when I last consulted a map!). They listed ten areas of the country where Coronavirus cases had increased and said six of these where in the North West. In their report they mentioned Oldham, Blackburn with Darwen, Trafford, and Rochdale, Hyndburn and also Pendle in Lancashire. That was the six local- authority areas Granada mentioned but on the list of ten (printed below) Eden District Council was not mentioned at all (to the extent that Leicester and Sandwell in the Midlands were not mentioned): The report can be found here and it was aired yesterday (Wed. 29th July): One just has to hope some of the Cumbrian viewers who cannot get ITV Border were not watching too closely- they might have been a bit peeved off at a neighbouring district (in their own county) being dismissed as “Not part of the North West”- despite the fact that there has been a spike in Coronavirus cases there and that after their county received no news coverage all week.

Something similarly annoying has been seen in the past in Sports coverage, which does take up rather a lot of airtime in Regional Programming! Teams in the North West have often been highlighted in bold capital letters whereas the teams they play which are not in the North West (or- strictly speaking- not on BBC North West’s or ITV Granada’s “Patch”!) are written fainter and in lower-case. Cumbrian teams north of BBC North West Tonight’s or ITV Granada’s transmission areas have been written faint in lower case: Pity any Penrith Rugby Team or Carlisle United football- supporters living in Sedbergh or Ambleside (and who watch BBC North West output)- they must have found that a joy to behold!!

However, the Carlisle area- and now the Eden Valley- is increasingly awash with rising cases of Coronavirus (which has parallels with how Foot and Mouth disease unfolded in the county in 2001): When South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians travel to these areas on days out or, in some cases to work and visit relatives, then North West Regional news broadcasters have a Public responsibility to warn viewers in the north of their transmission areas about rising cases of Coronavirus in Cumbria (and the Eden Valley is only 15 to 20 miles north of the BBC North West transmission area). Back in 2001 BBC North West Tonight really did not cover the devastation of Foot and Mouth disease wrecking havoc in Cumbria until it reached Tebay (when it was fizzling out in September 2001 and the damage was done).

It would actually be unforgiveable if Coronavirus cases increased to the extent that Foot and Mouth disease did in Cumbria- leading to the death of hundreds of people in the county and (because of BBC North West not covering it and warning people) the potentially lethal virus spreads south across Lancashire and Greater Manchester in a major way. There are indeed times when BBC (and ITV) Regions should never just “Not Report This News because It Is Beyond Our Patch”- such as if lives are imperiled by a refusal to cover such serious news.

Of course, one can argue that if something is serious it gets onto the National News. But even quite serious threats don’t always get on the national news: Recently I gave an example of lead or arsenic leaching into Haweswater Reservoir- something that is unlikely to be an immediately fatal threat to enough people to be on National News- but this is sure something folk living in much of North West England ought to know because Haweswater supplies mains water for much of the Region! In winter, severe flooding, heavy snowfall and high winds in Cumbria would be other perils to warn folk from up to an hour’s drive from Cumbria of the risks of driving into the area.

Even if something serious in Cumbria does get onto the National News, the fact that it is not on the Regional News could lull some folk into thinking the issues are still a long way away and are unlikely to ever affect them. Not everyone in the population is geographically astute enough to realise (for instance) that Penrith is not actually that far from Preston- and that you could get there within an hour on the train. Hence, stuff like severe weather, disease, motorway closures and the like- if it happens in Cumbria then folk in Lancashire who watch their Regional News need to see a report about the serious happenings in Cumbria.

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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