Rising Coronavirus cases -and attendant lockdowns affecting Manchester, Liverpool, parts of Cheshire and (mostly) South Lancashire have dominated headlines on BBC North West Tonight. Extensive coverage of the Inquest into the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombings also takes up extensive air-time on both BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada. And (Coronavirus restrictions permitting) Sports coverage has increased with the start of the Football and Rugby seasons!
Meanwhile, in Cumbria, a man in his seventies has died after being found beside the A595 near Egremont, in West Cumbria, two penguins were stolen from South Lakes Safari Zoo (this was reported on BBC Look North, which is North East based) and the A590 main road linking Barrow-in-Furness with the M6 is getting a revamp. All quite important news for folk living in South Cumbria (someone local could be related to the poor chap who died after a mishap on the A595 near Egremont, which is not far from Millom, Duddon Bridge and Corney Fell- all locations that get BBC North West programming).
However Granada has not covered Cumbria for a fortnight- just look through their Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/GranadaReports ) and a look through BBC North West Tonight’s Twitter feed shows a similar (though less total) disregard for Cumbria. Annabel Tiffin did at least have a piece on the outdoor- swimmer in Ullswater the other day and there was also a very brief bit of coverage on a council meeting in Kendal regarding plans for a new coal mine in West Cumbria, where some protesters turned up. That aside, there’s been nothing on Cumbria for a fortnight!
Our North West Regional Television broadcasters need to re-acquaint themselves with a map of England and see where the North West Region is: It certainly does not stop at Kendal and there is another forty percent of the Region north of that line. It might not be part of their “Patch” but North, West and Central Cumbria are in North West England and, if our North West Regional News broadcasters advertise as covering North West England they should cover the Region in its entirety- not just the part of North West England where the big cities are and not even just the part of North West England in their transmission areas.
It is really dismissive of Cumbrian viewers of their programmes for BBC North West and ITV Granada not to cover all of Cumbria: Why should those viewers not find out what is going on across their county on their so-called local television news? Other BBC and ITV Regions provide overlap zones so viewers at the periphery of the respective transmission areas get better all-round coverage and news about their counties. For instance, BBC Look North (Yorkshire) covers all of North Yorkshire in its news-output despite this Regional News programme only being received in the southern third of North Yorkshire. Likewise BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) covers all of Cumbria in its news-output, even South Cumbria, despite the fact that only North and West Cumbria can receive BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) programming. BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) also covers virtually all of North Yorkshire, despite the programme only being received by viewers in the northern half of North Yorkshire.
Regional Television broadcasters in the North West should follow suit- and stick an overlap zone across northern and West Cumbria so that their Cumbrian viewers get news across their county. Such a move will also improve North West Regional Television for viewers in northern Lancashire who would then get proper all- round coverage of locations of interest to the north of them as well as to the south.
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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