On Friday (2nd October), I watched BBC North West Tonight. The news-coverage was more like North West Regional news should be like- with news-coverage from Cumbria as well as from Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside. Roger Johnson covered South Cumbria in a report on the proposal for a new super-hospital in Lancashire to (potentially) replace the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and the Royal Preston Hospital. The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, expressed concern that folk living in his Constituency (South Lakeland District Council area) would have to travel further if they needed specialist treatment, and this was covered on BBC North West Tonight.
The other news- item covered was the fact that Cumbria County Council has given approval for a new deep coal-mine to be constructed near Whitehaven in West Cumbria. This is the first deep Coal Mine to be built in the UK for thirty years, but green campaigners are not happy about it. The amazing thing is that this got coverage on BBC North West Tonight since Whitehaven is about 20 miles north of BBC North West’s transmission boundary. But Roger Johnson is to be commended for having this news-item in his programme as this is a news item of significant interest to folk who live in South Cumbria- and indeed across other parts of North West England since the go- ahead for this mine raises the possibility of local employment and a boost to the Cumbrian economy. That will have benefits further afield, particularly at the other end to the Copeland borough to Whitehaven, where in Millom viewers do receive BBC North West Tonight and would have watched the news with interest.
Whitehaven, and indeed the wider area of West Cumbria is very much part of the English North West, even if very much in the northern half of the Region. Infact, nearby St Bees. Head is the most north-westerly part of England, only West Devon and Cornwall in South West England (and, by definition, not the North West) are a part of England further west than St. Bees Head. Perhaps the Programmers at BBC North West Tonight are finally waking up to the geographical fact that Cumbria is part of North West England- with the inclusion of Keswick in the BBC North West Tonight weather-forecasts being evidence of this.
For those who live in more northerly parts of North West England, they must hope that these are signs that their part of the world is being covered more in the North West Regional bulletins that they watch. Unfortunately we have had these false dawns before, whereby for two or three nights in a row there will be a news- item (or even two) about Cumbria on BBC North West Tonight- then with nothing north of Preston for three whole weeks dashing such hopes. The inclusion of Keswick in weather-forecasts does, however, offer hope of more lasting change.
Friday’s BBC North West Tonight main evening bulletin was also memorable for everyone watching it for another reason: Roger Johnson, the main BBC North West Tonight News- Presenter came face-to-face with the Right Honourable Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister- to ask him some questions about the Government’s response to rising Coronavirus cases in the North West, with new (and varied) lock-down measures for different parts of the Region. Two well- known gentlemen with the same surname- which must surely leave viewers to wonder whether they might be related through a distant ancestor!
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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