The need for Region- Specific open General Public Discussion Forums for North West and North East England.

Prior to starting this Website I looked on the Internet for Discussion Forums open to the General Public that were Region- specific rather than subject- specific. I would find things like Cumbria Share – a website for businesses to get together and share their ideas (see here:, or Cumbria Forum, part of the Cumbria Growth Hub (see here: and- at a Regional level- The North West People in Research Forum (see here: In fact, the more I looked I discovered all the Region or county- specific Discussion Forums were only for people who were bona-fide business-owners, researchers, doctors, professor or anybody who specialised in a particular “ism” or “ology”! To be admitted to any of these Regional Forums you have to demonstrate that you are a Professor, a Doctor, Council worker, Researcher, or whichever the case may be!

There does not seem to be a Region or County-specific Discussion Forum that is open to any member of the Public who wishes to join- and to discuss whatever is on their minds provided they are not threatening or abusive. This does of course limit the ability of people (especially those without money or status) to share their views and ideas of how to make their area (and their lives) better. This does of course mean that issues like poor or largely- irrelevant Regional News or Programmes cannot be articulated. Other people will have other concerns like anti-social behaviour, the lack of a Police presence, Domestic child abuse, the lack of work, jobs and opportunities in their area….whatever folk wish to discuss. Maybe some-one has some helpful tips on working from home and improving one’s income that they would like to share on a Public Forum for a particular area with high levels of deprivation. But without a local or Region- specific Forum open to all this might not be possible.

Of course, in these days of social media people can share stuff on Facebook- but there are limitations. If one wants to share stuff in their community amongst people who may not be on Facebook or Twitter- and they want to engage with people in an area about a subject that is area- specific (i.e. Regional News coverage in Cumbria will not be of much interest to folk living in London, or even Manchester)- there is not really a county or Region- specific Forum in which they could do this. Some of people’s problems are defined by geographical facts – like distances to the cities and the absence of cheap regular Public transport to them: Surely folk with those problems (and/ or solutions to them) ought to have a Forum to discuss these freely with others who live nearby and who (thus) have similar issues.

It’s hard to share ideas and get feedback in the absence of county or Region-specific Public Discussion Forums open to all- not just professionals or those with titles after their names. This is something that I will, myself, be rectifying from today.

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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