22nd February 2021
Last Wednesday (17th February) BBC North West Tonight ran a five- minute report on their main bulletin about the Whitehaven area in West Cumbria in connection with the new coal- mine to be built in the area: Cumbria County Council HAD previously given planning approval for the UK’s first coal- mine to be built in thirty years but had decided to withdraw their decision in the face of opposition from climate- change and green campaigners. The BBC’s flagship Regional News programme for North West England covered this story and interviewed local folk to guage reaction to the fact that planning authorisation for the proposed coal mine had been rescinded, there was more concern that the go- ahead would ultimately be given because local jobs depended on it.
Whitehaven is about twenty miles north of the BBC North West transmission area and it is the fist time in years that a report, taking up almost a fifth of the main 27-minute Regional bulletin has covered any part of North or West Cumbria north of the BBC North West’s transmission area. BBC North West Tonight also covered Patterdale Mountain Rescue- which operates on the fells above Ullswater on the same evening. This area is also (just) north of BBC North West’s transmission area. This means that South Cumbrians who live on the very northern margins of BBC North West’s transmission area- and who watched BBC North West Tonight last Wednesday- got to hear much more news about communities local to them than they would have otherwise.
All of this illustrates an acceptance (and indeed a measure of willingness) from BBC North West Regional News programmers to cover the northern two-thirds of Cumbria in Regional news output, and also a measure of awareness from BBC North West news- programmers that the flagship Regional News programme should cover all of North West England in news- coverage to be considered a real North West Regional news programme.
There are other indications that BBC North West Tonight programmers are willing to include northern and West Cumbria in their output: The table of changes in the prevalence of Covid-19 week by week for all parts of North West England has started to include Copeland and Allerdale districts in West Cumbria, Eden District and Carlisle in the east and north of the county respectively. If BBC North West Tonight maintain and improve even more on their coverage of all Cumbria the flagship BBC Regional News programme will provide a real alternative for Regional and local news compared to ITV1 Granada Reports (which just about mentions Cumbria once in a blue moon)- for communities across Lancashire and South Cumbria and also boroughs like Wigan and Bolton (which have more affinity with Lancashire than South Manchester or Merseyside).
My advice, more than ever, is that anyone living north of a line running from Southport to Rochdale should watch BBC North West Tonight, not ITV1 Granada Reports to get more local news with news-coverage from across all of the North West of England- not just the southern third of the Region. If BBC North West Tonight maintain and improve their coverage of Cumbria into the future viewers in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire will not need to despair if they cannot readily get ITV1 Border (English version), they will not need to spend £££ on Sky/ Freeview technicians in order to get ITV1 Border since South Cumbrians will be able to gain sufficient coverage of their own county from BBC North West Tonight programming; North Lancastrians will no longer have to put up with lopsided coverage (i.e. all to the south)- of the English North West as they understand it!
Keep up the good work BBC North West Tonight programmers!