30th October 2020
For the second night in a row this week Annabel Tiffin covered a Cumbrian news- feature on BBC North West Tonight. Last night there was a feature on beavers being re-introduced to Cumbria after an absence of 500 years. Tellingly, the reporter covered the scheme to reintroduce beavers at the Lowther Estate, just south of Penrith, some ten miles north of BBC North West’s transmission boundary (find this news-item here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-54690598). The reporter was Mark Mcalindon, who is based in Carlisle and who normally covers Cumbria for BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria), but this is the second time that I am aware of (the first just a few months ago) that he has stood in to report for BBC North West Tonight. It is all the more amazing that Mark Mcalindon agreed to provide a report for BBC North West Tonight about a part of Cumbria north of BBC North West’s transmission area, even though he was based in Carlisle and normally provides news- reports for BBC North East/ Cumbria: There was no “I’m not providing BBC North West with a report about Lowther Estates. BBC North West should stay off our Patch!“.
This collaboration of reporters and resources across BBC Regions is something to be commended because people living in the north of both North West Regional Television transmission areas do have links with places and areas twenty, even thirty miles further north- especially if those places are in the same county (Cumbria) that they live in. The transmission boundary between BBC North West and BBC North East/ Cumbria cuts right across the middle of the Lake District and right across the middle of Cumbria- and it even splits Copeland District in the west of Cumbria neatly in two; thus it is right and proper that BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) can report on happenings in South Cumbria for the benefit of their North and West Cumbrian viewers and it is right that BBC North West Tonight can report on northern Cumbrian happenings for the benefit of their South Cumbrian viewers. This evening on North West Tonight there was a report on a former employee who stole rare penguins and other exotic animals from South Lakes Safari Zoo, near Ulverston, who today was jailed for 32 months.
Lancashire has also been covered very extensively on BBC North West Tonight over the last two nights, even if for unfortunate reasons. Last night the tragic death of comedian, Sir Bobby Ball from Coronavirus at age 76 was given extensive coverage. He was one half of the famous comedy duo Cannon and Ball, who were based near Blackpool. I once had the privilege of seeing them perform at the church I went to when I lived in Lancaster. Coronavirus, and the effect of rising cases (and the Tier Three restrictions in-place) affecting education and tourism in Lancashire has also been given a lot of coverage on BBC North West Tonight. ITV Granada have also covered Lancashire, but not as much as BBC North West Tonight.
All things considered, BBC North West Tonight does cover Cumbrian news events. If one were to put a number on it, there would (on average) be a news item on Cumbria about three times a week. That is not true of ITV Granada Reports where weeks can pass without any coverage of the county at all. Lancashire is also covered better on BBC North West Tonight, than on Granada; currently there has been two or three news-items for each evening bulletin on average on BBC North West Tonight but typically just one or two nightly on ITV Granada. BBC North West does cover more northerly parts of North West England better than ITV Granada, partly as a reflection of greater pressure on BBC North West because all of South Cumbria receives BBC North West whereas perhaps half the population of South Cumbria gets ITV Granada.
One can safely assert that if you live north of a line that runs from Southport to Rochdale, then BBC North West Tonight is the better North West Regional News programme for you than ITV Granada Reports. However, by the time one gets as far north as Lancaster you cannot really assert that either North West Regional News service provides good all- round news coverage. BBC North West Tonight will sometimes cover happenings up to about 45 miles further north of Lancaster (as yesterday), but not major happenings in northern Cumbria that are up to one hour away by train that one might be important to know. If you live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire you can get ITV Border (English version) if you have good Internet and can get on ITV Hub- you can watch their flagship “Lookaround” news-programme at 6.pm to find out what is happening in places to the north of you (i.e. across Cumbria). Then watch BBC North West Tonight on your television at 6.30 pm weekdays (BBC 1) to find out what is happening locally just to the south of you (across Lancashire) and a bit further south (across Manchester and Merseyside).
If you are a pensioner and don’t have a computer and cannot get ITV Border, but you have a Radio you can pick up BBC Radio Cumbria across Lancaster and Morecambe at 96.1 FM and 756 on AM. News on local radio tends to be short-lived, however and there are no live pictures so that makes it rather poorer as a news- service than live television (particularly if you are hard of hearing). If you have a good aerial and point it north, you can- if you twiddle the tuner on your television- pick up a signal for ITV Border if you live on the north and east side of Lancaster or in Morecambe, Carnforth or Kirkby Lonsdale. ITV Border will (likely) be in black-and-white but it will be a lot better than BBC Radio Cumbria in trying to find out what is happening to the north of you (you at least get television pictures, which is better than just Radio). Then watch BBC North West Tonight at 6.30 pm on BBC 1.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have good Internet or High Definition TV/ Freeview/ Sky TV one cannot receive ITV Border at all if you live in Millom, Barrow-in Furness or Ulverston (because the signal is blocked by the Lakeland Fells) and you will be stuck with BBC North West Tonight and BBC Radio Cumbria. There are still tens of thousands of (mostly elderly) viewers who- for reasons of poverty and not being tech- savvy cannot get much local news from their television, let alone get to hear about major happenings to the north of them. Folk who live in these parts of South Cumbria are still poorly-served by BBC North West Tonight and very poorly-served by ITV Granada Reports.
It is rather unfortunate that in North West England- all the way up to places like Millom and Kirkby Lonsdale- the two main North West Regional Television news- services are competing with each other providing- what is- essentially the same Regional News- service centred on a very similar transmission area. Both BBC North West and ITV Granada fight it out in providing coverage of areas where the largest concentration of viewers are (in Greater Manchester and Merseyside), whilst both almost completely fail to adequately cover anywhere north of Preston or on the Isle of Man. They would both (collectively) get more viewers if they came to an accommodation with ITV Granada (dependent as this Regional news service is on private revenue streams) was left to concentrate on Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire- and to provide Regional Sports coverage whilst BBC North West sacrificed some of the Sports coverage and reduced one of their Mancunian/ Mersey news-items to make room for much better effective coverage of Lancashire, Cumbria (all of it) and the Isle of Man so that more northerly viewers have a much better local news- service. A suggestion for how this could be achieved can be found here (https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/10/27/bbc-north-west-and-itv-granadas-coverage-remains-unacceptable-for-their-northern-viewers-suggested-template-for-bbc-north-west-to-cover-cumbria-and-north-lancs-better/).
In this way there is a choice which Manchester United and Liverpool Football Club supporters can be happy with, viewers in Manchester and Liverpool can be happy with- and there is also an acceptable North West Regional News service for viewers in Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man. North West Tonight would then be exactly as advertised- covering the North West of England which stretches from Crewe in Cheshire right up to the Scottish Border, north of Carlisle.
Once BBC North West are providing a better Regional News service, with at least two news- items about Cumbria every weekday night, that part of West Cumbria and the area immediately south of Penrith could be transferred to the BBC North West Region, where they would find a news- service that provides better coverage of Cumbria but one that also has the remaining news coming from the correct side of the Pennines for them! That would then correct an absurdity whereby folk living in the most north-westerly parts of England- in places such as St Bees Head, Egremont and Cleator Moor- get their Regional News from the North East, with 85% of coverage being about the North East of England (and over 100 miles away from them)! However, these areas cannot be simply swapped from one area where 85% of the news is irrelevant to another where 90% of the news is irrelevant (as the present content of BBC North West Tonight would be to West Cumbria)!
In the meantime, this Website will continue to campaign to ensure that viewers of Regional Television who live north of Preston get the North West Regional Television News- service they deserve. This Website will also provide tips and resources so that viewers who live in Lancashire, South Cumbria and on the Isle of Man do find more localised news coverage -including on how to receive ITV Border (English version) so that they can find out about what’s happening locally to the north of them: If and when North West Regional News broadcasters discover they are losing viewers to ITV Border they may decide that they must up their game for viewers in the very north of their transmission areas who live across the northern North West of England!