21st October 2020
Viewers of Regional Television in the North West will understand what areas are deemed acceptable for news-coverage in the main evening bulletins by the map showed on the Weather-forecast at the end or how places are described. On both BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada a map of North West England is showed with an area from the South Lakes down to Crewe hatched in a darker shade. This does correspond with the transmission area for both BBC North West, though for ITV Granada, the area immediately north of Kendal is in fact a small overlap coverage zone- viewers in Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and Sedbergh get their ITV Regional News from ITV Border (Cumbrian version). However, ITV Granada has not covered Cumbria for weeks- so to all intents and purposes they might as well mark the Lancashire- Cumbria boundary as the northernmost extent of their Region.
There are other indications of the Statement of Intent for what areas the Regional News providers will cover. At the start of BBC North West Tonight are lists of names of places for each area covered that spin around a semi-circle in the opening credits to the programme. It is also illuminating what counties are not mentioned in Region-wide Reports, or what areas the North West Coronavirus Map (or the North West Political Constituency Map) shows. This is very illuminating because it shows without a shadow of doubt that BBC North West and ITV Granada Reports rather firmly do not include northern Cumbria in their remit of Regional news- coverage- even though these areas are part of the English North West!
For instance, in recent coverage of the increasing Coronavirus restrictions with larger areas of North West England being placed under the tougher Tier 3 Level of Coronavirus restrictions the map on display only shows the South Lakes and Barrow-in-Furness areas: The news- reports, when referring to different areas talk of “South Cumbria”, but not “Cumbria”, which rather betrays the Policy of Never Covering North and West Cumbria.
Some-times this can be very explicit. In last December’s General Election BBC North West Tonight had a map with all the Constituencies in the North West that they cover (I have italicised that point, as clearly BBC North West don’t cover all of North West England, when they advertise as “Covering the North West- and the Isle of Man”). On this map they listed Cumbria, with a comment next to it -“Our Bit” on their white-board, and below which only Barrow-and-Furness and Westmorland and Lonsdale were listed. The poor viewers of BBC North West Tonight who live in and around Millom, Corney Fell and Duddon Bridge (who can only get ITV Granada and BBC North West, not ITV Border) did not see their Constituency of Copeland either covered or mentioned- and over 10,000 potential viewers of North West Regional Television live in this Constituency! When a viewer commented on “Cumbria- Our Bit” on BBC North West Tonight the reply from BBC North West was swift: “Yes. BBC North West only covers South Cumbria. BBC North East covers the rest” (you can see this exchange here https://twitter.com/bbcnwt/status/1205095264551362560)!
On BBC North West Tonight, the Weather forecasts have been listing Keswick- which is just to the north of the transmission area, so one might hope this is a statement of intent to cover more northerly parts of Cumbria just outside the transmission area. One can only hope so, because this will lead to improved local and all- round coverage for Cumbrian viewers of BBC North West Tonight. However, as long as the shaded area on the Weather-map does not extend much north of Kendal, as long as news- presenters keep referring to “South Cumbria” and not “Cumbria” in news reports, refuse to show Parliamentary Constituencies in North and West Cumbria and otherwise refuse to show the entire county of Cumbria when discussing pan-Regional health/ other crises- then that is a real Statement of Intent that “We will Not Be Covering Northern Cumbria”.
That being so, one has to think that maybe “Keswick” was mistaken for “Kendal” and that this will soon be rectified, “Keswick” will then soon disappear like a mirage in the desert! Maybe BBC North West Tonight’s programmers just have Keswick in the Weather-forecast to try and reassure their more northern viewers that actually BBC North West does endeavour to cover all parts of the North West of England- even when there is actually no intention to cover northern Cumbria in news-coverage at all. If that is so, BBC North West Tonight’s Programmers are not only failing to provide effective local-news coverage for their Cumbrian viewers, but they would also be guilty of practicing a serious deception upon those same viewers (i.e. trying to fool South Cumbrian viewers that they will soon be getting better news-coverage from right across their own county, when in practice there is absolutely no intention to provide this).
I don’t believe that BBC North West’s programmers would ever set out to deceive any of their viewers as they have done this before. Back in 2001 they had a place from each county in the North West on the Weather-map (a different set of places each night, usually starting with the same letter). Once they selected “Spadeadam” for Cumbria, where there is a military base. Spadeadam is in the north-east of Cumbria, not far from the small town of Brampton and also not far from the A69, the main trunk- road from Carlisle to the North East of England. It is also over 50 miles north of BBC North West’s transmission boundary. At the time BBC North West Tonight did occasionally show news-coverage from northern Cumbria and they did once cover the Spadeadam Military base around that time in what must still stand today as one of their most northerly news- reports. However, any coverage of northern Cumbria was, then still extremely rare but the northern Cumbrian locations on the Weather-map was BBC North West’s way of reassuring South Cumbrian viewers that they did did reports about Cumbria as a whole and did take coverage of their county seriously.
Fast forward to today and there will be coverage of Cumbria on BBC North West Tonight- even locations just north of the transmission boundary- from time to time. Putting Keswick on the Weather-map is the means by which Cumbrian viewers are assured that there is pan- Cumbrian coverage at times. However, they never go far- so even if a woman is killed by her partner in Cleator Moor, in West Cumbria- just 15 miles north of BBC North West Tonight’s transmission boundary it is not covered (the news-item centering on this example is here https://www.timesandstar.co.uk/news/18593060.cleator-moor-community-shock-alleged-murder-loving-mother-shelly-clark/ ).
Actions speak louder than words. In the Sports coverage, football and rugby teams in the BBC North West transmission area are written in block capitals, whilst those outside are written normally in lower- case. Football and rugby teams based in northern and West Cumbria are displayed in lower- case and (more to the point) if a northern Cumbrian team played another team outside of the transmission boundary the results would never be displayed. There are probably Carlisle United supporters who live in Kirkby Lonsdale or Millom (who cannot get ITV Border as an alternative) who must be quite irked about this!
The Political Maps, the shaded area on Weather-maps, the lower-case Cumbrian sports teams, the exclusion of the Copeland Constituency demonstrate much more clearly than simply putting “Keswick” on the Weather forecasts what BBC North West Tonight’s programmers are actually prepared to cover- that with the exception of quite rare occasions that they will not cover northern and West Cumbria.
But that is nothing compared to the let-down that South Cumbrian viewers who cannot get ITV Border have to put up with from ITV Granada. No coverage of their local area for weeks on end and most definitely no coverage of northern Cumbria! Viewers in South Cumbria and North Lancashire who cannot get ITV Border would be well- advised by this Website to pick BBC North West Tonight which, although still a long way short of what a North West Regional news programme should provide for its more northerly viewers, does at least cover Lancashire quite well and there is a hope that something about Cumbria might get mentioned.
However, the choice on offer for perhaps one million potential viewers who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire- and on the Isle of Man- is still completely unacceptable. At least 100,000 (potential) viewers in South Cumbria and over 80,000 viewers on the Isle of Man have a poor Hobson’s Choice between ITV Granada Reports and BBC North West Tonight, both of which can completely fail to even mention their county for a week! If you live in Millom, you cannot really get ITV Border and have a choice of two “local” and Regional news-services in which the nearest “Local news” will be more than an hour away by train or by car (with 90% of the news being over two-and-a-half hour’s drive away). People who live in Millom also have their Parliamentary Constituency totally cut out of Political Programming.
Regional Television News broadcasters should provide relevant and current news and current affairs for all their viewers. This is patently not happening in those parts of Cumbria that cannot pick up ITV Border: However if you have a computer and can watch ITV Hub- and you live in South Cumbria- you can still get ITV Border through ITV Hub. If you have some means of getting ITV Border online, then go for it and switch off the television that only gives you a choice of BBC North West and ITV Granada Reports. Only if both BBC North West and ITV Granada Reports start losing their most northerly viewers will the North West Regional Programmers actually take note.
There is another process whereby the North West Regional News-services can be pressurised into “upping their game” for their Cumbrian and North Lancastrian viewers: That is if thousands of viewers write in to complain, or viewers write to their local Constituency MP (the MP for Copeland is Trudy Harrison who would be interested to know that over 10,000 viewers of Regional Television in her Copeland Constituency had the Copeland Constituency totally excluded from the Regional News coverage!). The MP’s can then write lots of cordial-but-sharp letters to the Regional Programmers demanding rapid improvements to Regional News coverage for their Constituents.
Your Local MP will be as follows for the relevant Constituencies:
Barrow and Furness: The Right Hon. Simon Fell, MP
Blackpool North and Cleveleys: The Right Hon. Paul Maynard, MP
Copeland: The Right Hon. Trudy Harrison, MP
Fylde: The Right Hon. Mark Menzies, MP
Lancaster and Fleetwood: The Right Hon Cat Smith, MP
Morecambe and Lunesdale: The Right Hon. David Morris, MP
Ribble Valley: The Right Hon. Nigel Evans, MP
Westmorland and Lonsdale: The Right Hon. Tim Farron, MP
Wyre and Preston North: The Right Hon. Ben Wallace, MP
The address for writing to your MP- always write and don’t just send an email to be sure that your MP actually reads what you have to say (the 70 pence for a stamp will be worth it)- is always: House of Commons, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 0AA.