5th November 2020
Most of Cumbria today has the option of switching over to the English version of ITV1 Border and to watch the flagship Regional Programme “Lookaround” to get excellent local news- coverage of their county if they don’t like the 85% North East flavoured output from BBC Look North. Viewers in the Central Lakes around Windermere and Ambleside can also switch over to ITV1 Border (England) to get Cumbrian news if they don’t like the 90% Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire, and South Lancashire output from BBC North West Tonight.
A bit further south across South Cumbria and North Lancashire, and on the Isle of Man is it harder to get ITV Border but viewers can (if they twiddle their television tuning knobs) get a black-and-white picture of ITV1 Border (England) in some of those areas- and if they are in receipt of Sky or Freeview they can (with the help of a TV technician if they are not tech- savvy) also tune into a full colour reception of ITV1 Border (England) to get the news just to the north of them- rather than always to the south of them.
Unfortunately, although it seems unlikely in view of how long ITV1 Border (and before that, Border Television) has graced television screens across Cumbria (nearly sixty years), there is a possibility that ITV.Plc will amalgamate and mothball the ITV1 Border Region altogether- with that part of Cumbria receiving it being amalgamated with the ITV1 Tyne Tees Region, southwest Scotland with Scottish Television West (STV West- Glasgow- based) transmission Region and the Scottish Borders amalgamated with STV East (Edinburgh- based) Region. For Cumbria, certainly, this would be disastrous and it would also inflict all-round bleaker options on areas a bit further south and on the Isle of Man.
Although this Website will fight rigorously to prevent ITV1 Border from being mothballed, complete with urging OFCOM to force ITV.Plc to preserve the unique transmission area covering Cumbria and southern Scotland, there is still a possibility that ITV.Plc are given the go- ahead on economic grounds: ITV1 Border’s future came under real threat in 2008-2009 during the Financial Crisis when (for five years afterwards) ITV1 Border was amalgamated with the ITV Tyne Tees Region – forcing viewers in places from Stranraer to Hawick and from Carlisle to Kendal- and out to the West Cumbrian Coast to suffer mainly North East England output- with just a bit of Cumbria/ southern Scotland in an opt-out. Fortunately, in 2013- following pressure from Members of Parliament representing Constituencies in Cumbria and southern Scotland and from OFCOM- the ITV1 Border Region was restored fully complete with the separate southern Scotland programming transmitted from Selkirk in the Scottish Borders.
However, in 2020 Britain is in a much more severe Recession than that which followed the 2008-9 Financial Crisis and there is already evidence that ITV.plc is being hit with declining advertising revenues. ITV does offer a small subscription cost for viewers to access its ITV Hub so that they can watch ITV programmes online. However, with declining audiences and falling advertising revenues as more viewers discover the joys of Netflix and find multiple channels programmes to watch on Sky the story is one of ITV.Plc likely to be seeking to make savings. Regional Television, despite this being amongst the programming receiving the highest audiences compared to other programming, will come under the spotlight since Regional News is also relatively expensive to produce. Small ITV transmission Regions- like ITV1 Border- will probably come under threat and it will be up to all Cumbrians and southern Scots to fight hard to secure it’s future.
But this might not be enough. So we will look at proposals to help ensure that viewers in Cumbria, in northern Lancashire and on the Isle of Man can get reasonably good all- round local and Regional News-coverage in the very unfortunate event that (despite all the efforts and lobbying to save it) ITV1 Border is mothballed and most of Cumbria becomes part of a new ITV1 Tyne-Tees-Cumbria transmission Region.
Viewers in the Carlisle area and in north-east Cumbria could just about cope with such a change because Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the go-to big city for major shopping trips and to go to the airport to go on holiday. Some coverage of western Northumberland would maintain a sense of all-round coverage and Cumbria would (likely) be covered better than on BBC Look North because the new ITV1 Tyne Tees Cumbria will include Kendal, Windermere and the central Lakes- so programmers would be under greater pressure to deliver news local to some 400,000 Cumbrian potential viewers (as opposed to 300,000 Cumbrians in the BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) transmission area). However North Cumbrian viewers would lose any coverage of southern Scotland- and to rectify that they could save up enough to get Sky or Freeview, from where they would be able to get STV West (that would, by this time cover the Glasgow area and southwest Scotland, including up round Argyll and the southwest corner of the Scottish Highlands). One could watch STV West (Glasgow) “News at Six” followed by BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) at 6.30.pm to get some all-round coverage, but there would be very little Cumbrian news.
Such an arrangement would be wholly unsuitable for viewers south of Penrith or in West Cumbria, where a mainly North East- based output from both ITV1 and BBC1 would leave viewers in these areas with a poor choice. Scottish Television’s offerings would also be 95 to 100% irrelevant to viewers south of Penrith and in West Cumbria with the abolition of ITV Border. If you want good local coverage without ITV Border in these areas your choices are BBC Radio Cumbria (which has no pictures and radio alone is most unhelpful if you are deaf) or the rather amateur That’s TV Cumbria which does (of sorts) provide Local Television news. If you have Freeview and live in Cumbria you can get it on Channel 8 (the website link to it is here: http://www.thats.tv/cumbria/). You can get Cumbrian news on That’s TV Cumbria at 6.pm each day and it is news about Cumbria, so it is likely that you would find something relevant to where you live wherever you live in the county.
The That’s TV outfit is not well- resourced although there is a good chance that, if ITV Border is to be mothballed in the next few years the That’s TV outfit will find its niche in the market, professionalise a bit more and find a funding model to keep itself going (perhaps with product-placement on programmes or sponsorship from local companies for each of the local That’s TV outlets). In the absence of That’s TV Cumbria (or if viewers cannot stand it) the only other outlets are Cumbria Crack, an online website devoted to coverage of Cumbria. It is not a Regional Television service, though it has just been taken over by an Appleby- based company called Barrnon Media Limited- so this could develop into something palatable to watch on your television by the time (IF) ITV1 Border Television is mothballed. If viewers in northern Cumbria and West Cumbria make a real point of trying out these more localised news- outlets that will heap pressure on both the BBC and ITV to bring more localised news- coverage for Cumbrian viewers- hopefully with an opt-out from the main North East based programming.
If you live on the Isle of Man your choices will remain limited. Only BBC North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports cover the Crown Dependency. There is also Manx Telecom TV, which is an on-demand service provided for residents on the Isle of Man: As advertised it is something you can tune into and watch on your television for a small fee (details are here: https://www.manx.net/tv). If you can get this very local Television service for the Isle of Man I would strongly advise it, there is nowhere else you will get 95% coverage just of the Isle of Man. The more of the 85,000 Manx viewers switch to Manx Telecom TV the greater likelihood that Regional News Programmers in North West England will be shocked into doing something sharpish: That is, to rectify the fact that viewers on the Isle of Man currently get about 5% coverage of their small nation on either BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports! The only other alternative that will give good coverage of the Isle of Man is, of course, Manx Radio (website here: https://www.manxradio.com/), but there is no television and no pictures.
The disappearance of ITV Border (should this awful scenario come to pass) would be unlikely to have an immediate impact on viewers who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire who live just south of the ITV Border transmission area. It is likely that BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports will carry on providing little coverage north of Preston although, as I have pointed out in previous posts, BBC North West Tonight does (at least) acknowledge Cumbria from time to time and BBC North West Tonight does cover Lancashire better. South Cumbrians should be able to get That’s TV Cumbria on Freeview Channel 8, assuming the That’s TV Cumbria service is still in existence then. If not, then Barrnon Media Limited may (hopefully) have turned Cumbria Crack (currently just an online news website) into a Local TV outlet watchable on the television. Failing that will (likely) be the fallback of BBC Radio Cumbria- which (as it’s name suggests) does not produce live news- pictures on your television- but it will produce news about Cumbria. These options remain for South Cumbrians to get local news- coverage and coverage about happenings to the north of, but within an hour’s drive, of them.
Viewers in northern Lancashire should be able to receive That’s TV Cumbria, so as to get news to the north of their area by putting a South Cumbrian postcode into their Digibox so that their Freeview (if they have it) directs to That’s TV Cumbria on Freeview Channel 8, not That’s TV Lancashire. Failing that, it will (likely) still be possible to listen to BBC Radio Cumbria if you live in the Lancaster and Morecambe areas, though that is far from ideal as you cannot watch BBC Radio Cumbria on your television! It is more possible that (with more homes having computers by the time of ITV Border’s demise- should this ever happen) Cumbria Crack will have been developed by Barrnon Media into something that could be watched on You Tube and the technology will then exist to link it up to your television.
Either way, viewers in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire can continue to exert pressure on both BBC North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to “Up their Game” with regards to viewers in the very north of their transmission areas. If both the two main North West Regional Television News services lose South Cumbrian, Manx and North Lancastrian viewers- and those viewers write in to explain why they prefer That’s TV Cumbria to ITV1 Granada Reports and prefer Cumbrian Crack TV to BBC North West Tonight – then the North West’s main Regional News services will be compelled to cover all of the North West properly- not just the areas south of Preston.
I conclude by stating that I very sincerely hope ITV Border survives many more years and decades into the future, and this Website will fight tooth-and-nail to prevent its demise ever coming to pass. However, should the worst come to the worst, viewers who live in Cumbria, northern Lancashire and on the Isle of Man will almost certainly find there are other viable Local Television News providers by that time who would take away some (if not all) of the pain of losing ITV Border (Cumbrian version)- or indeed the option of tuning in and receiving it a bit further south of the transmission area.