If ITV Border’s future is ever threatened by ITV trying to save money after the Covid-19 Recession, this Website will Fight to Protect ITV Border.

2nd November 2020

Dear Readers

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.

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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