2nd November 2020
This coming week sees all of England destined to return to Lockdown conditions for four more weeks as the British Government seeks to stop Coronavirus cases increasing rapidly resulting in potentially thousands of deaths. Whatever the merits of locking the country down again, there will be a major impact on the British Economy in the run-up to Christmas. Thanks to the new Lockdown, following on from several weeks of severe Lockdown in the Spring of 2020 with restrictions only slowly being lifted afterwards, then Regional restrictions in areas of rapidly- rising Coronavirus cases into the Autumn- Britain will suffer the deepest and nastiest Recession in centuries.
This all has implications for Regional Television, particularly as advertising revenues plunge (these have already been falling before Coronavirus as a lower proportion of the British population watch programmes on the television- and watch more programmes via the Internet and mediums like Netflix). It is almost certain that, with firms going bust or having less money to spend on advertising that ITV will see a drop in Income. The BBC is already facing a funding shortfall as fewer people are willing to pay the £157.50 a year to watch television when they can get their information and programmes from other sources. The BBC is also under pressure not to re-impose Television Licences for those over the age of 75 years’ old.
The pressure to reduce costs has already made it’s effect felt in Regional Television in the North West. Two seasoned (and well-liked) news-reporters from BBC North West Tonight- Stuart Flinders and Dave Guest have resigned (and although they do not say that they were made redundant, it has the hallmarks of a BBC seeking to make cuts as both these presenters resigned within days of each other). Earlier in the summer there was the “Campaign to Keep the North West Tonight Family Together” following the BBC’s plan to reduce the numbers of Presenters in Regional Television (refer to this Website’s article here https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/07/05/campaign-to-keep-the-bbc-north-west-tonight-family-together/).
However, it is the real possibility that the Management at ITV. Plc, coming under severe financial pressure, feel that they have no choice but to make Big Cuts to the Regional Television Programming Budget by (among other things) Mothballing and Amalgamating some of the smaller ITV Regions with adjacent larger Regions: In the process they would close Regional Newsrooms and sack Reporters and Presenters. No discussion of Product Placement as another means of raising money, no cutting of higher management- Regional Television could be in the firing line!
Of particular concern is the real possibility that ITV Border could be mothballed and amalgamated with Tyne Tees, with the Scottish part of the Region amalgamated with Scottish Television (STV). This is not a baseless concern because ITV amalgamated ITV Border with ITV Tyne-Tees in 2008/2009 during a less severe recession than the one Britain faces today. For about five years afterwards viewers in most of Cumbria had to choose between mainly North East England- based news on BBC 1 (from BBC Look North) and mostly North East- based news from the new ITV Tyne Tees Border service. Fortunately, following pressure from local viewers and from OFCOM (who made it a condition of ITV continuing to have a Licence to broadcast) the ITV Border Region (complete with the Southern Scotland opt-out from Selkirk) was restored by January 2014.
If this happens again, viewers in Cumbria and southern Scotland would lose a valuable Regional Television News- service. Viewers in locations like Whitehaven and Kendal would get 85% coverage of events well over 100 miles away on the other side of the Pennines, whilst viewers in places like Kirkudbright and Stranraer (in far south-west Scotland) would have to put up with 85% coverage of Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Dumbarton- again 100 or more miles away. Viewers in the Scottish Borders will, in all likelihood, get news from Edinburgh (from the STV-East Region). Up to 800,000 potential viewers would go from getting a Regional and Local Television News- service that is excellent to getting one that is irrelevant. Such a change therefore cannot and must not be allowed to happen!
As soon as there is the slightest hint that ITV will amalgamate ITV Border with ITV Tyne Tees (or worse, ITV Tyne Tees, ITV Border and ITV Calendar (Yorkshire) are all amalgamated into one big ITV North) this Website will mobilise to get Cumbrian viewers to write to their MPs, and even to get the 100,000 signatures to get a Motion for the Mothball of ITV Border to be prohibited! I am very sure that I could find 100,000 Cumbrians and Scottish Borderers to get MPs to pass a Law that would prohibit ITV from mothballing ITV Border.
This Website is mainly concerned with ensuring that the 1.5 million folk who live north of Preston and on the Isle of Man have a Regional News service that is local and relevant to their communities, not distant and irrelevant. This Website will not allow a situation to arise whereby Cumbrians have a choice of either 85% Manchester/ Liverpool/ Cheshire or 85% North East (both 100 or more miles away from much of Cumbria); where there is no possibility of finding a Regional Television news service that is North West- flavoured but focussed mainly on Cumbria, the Isle of Man and northern Lancashire with a little overlap northwards into southern Scotland and north-eastwards as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne.