21st May 2021
This evening, there was a marathon- runner called Gary McKee who ran a 26.2 mile circuit near his home in Cleator Moor, West Cumbria. He did this every day for 110 successive days to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and the local Hospice at Home West Cumbria. He ended up raising over £110,000 for the cancer Charity. BBC North West did have this on their Twitter feed- and it raised one’s hope that it was on BBC North West Tonight. It was not and indeed, as on ITV Granada Reports there was nothing north of Preston on the news. However, viewers of Regional Television in the North East of England saw a full spread of Gary McKee’s achievements on BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria).
Cleator Moor is near Whitehaven and less than thirty miles up the Cumbrian coast from Millom, both are within Copeland borough. However, whilst Millom falls in the north of the transmission area of both main North West Regional Television News- services, so that Millom’s viewers receive BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports northern parts of Copeland borough are northward of the transmission boundaries of both BBC North West and ITV1 Granada. Programmers of both BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada do not like going beyond the transmission boundaries in their coverage. As ever, this means that folk in Cumbria who happen to be within the transmission area of both Regional News- providers do not get good local coverage- areas that are still very local to them (and still in Cumbria, and indeed in the same borough!) are not covered because they are beyond the transmission boundaries- which programmers really do not like crossing even a little and even when it would provide news of relevance and importance for viewers in Cumbria!
There are parts of North West England, of which South Cumbria is one- where of the ready choices of Regional Television News- service none are found that provide the area with coverage that is relevant or geographically- appropriate. Some more northerly parts of South Cumbria can readily pick up ITV1 Border’s Lookaround instead of Granada Reports and they have a real antidote to the Manchester/ Liverpool- heavy coverage of BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports. However much of South Cumbria cannot readily get ITV1 Border at all and the same applies to viewers who live in northern Lancashire.
However, if viewers in these areas have Sky (or are prepared to fork out for the cost of it), and then pay for a technician to re-programme their televisions so that ITV1 Border and BBC1 North West are their default Regional programmes; they then have the option of finding out what’s happening across their own county (if they live in Cumbria) and finding out about happenings northwards of them if they live in northern Lancashire. However, many viewers cannot afford Sky Television when the £159 annual Television License fee (as of 1st April 2021 is quite enough!) and have more pressing daily issues than going through the hassle (and additional expense) of trying to pick up a new ITV Region to get more relevant coverage. Fortunately, most households at least have computers with reliable Internet connection, and signing up to ITV Hub (for just £3.99 a month) is a way of folk living in the northern North West picking up ITV1 Border (England) where the default Television Region is ITV1 Granada.
Nevertheless, there are (mainly rural) parts of Britain that fall through the cracks in Regional Television provision, who get a poor Regional news service because they live at the distant periphery of the transmission area- so that up to half the really local news they would like to be informed of is never reported because its beyond the transmission boundary. Meanwhile the viewers get 80% coverage of cities that are over an hour’s travel time away. This is particularly true for the extreme north of the transmission areas in both the BBC1 and ITV1 North West transmission areas and it is also true for northern Northumberland in the two BBC1 and ITV1 transmission Regions- where the northern boundary marks the Scottish Border beyond which Regional News editors dare not cross!
North East Wales, northern Staffordshire and northern Shropshire are other sizeable, mainly rural areas at the northern end of both the ITV1 and BBC1 transmission areas that likewise suffer poor service with a hard border just to the north stopping them from finding out what is happening less than twenty miles further north- whilst most of the news- coverage on both the BBC1 and ITV1 “local offerings” are from urban areas over an hour southwards- and over three hours southwards for viewers in north east Wales forced to suffer two lousy choices of “Mainly Cardiff/Swansea/ South Wales”! Altogether, it is certain that up to three million potential viewers across the Northern Regions of England, Wales and the northern English Midlands- encompassing places like Rhyl and Wrexham in North Wales, places like Oswestry and Stoke on Trent just south of the two North West Regional Television transmission areas, Lancaster, Barrow-in-Furness and Blackpool in the North West, the Isle of Man and Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnwick in northern Northumberland- fall between the cracks in provision of Regional Television coverage.
It means that across the northern half of England and Wales areas adding up to a population greater than that of Greater Manchester misses out on relevant, local and geographically- appropriate Regional Television coverage: Imagine the outcry if either BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports stopped covering Greater Manchester, except perhaps once a week! Yet, somehow viewers in much of South Cumbria, in northern Lancashire and on the Isle of Man are expected to submit to poor coverage from both the main North West Regional Television- news services and meekly put up with it.
Cumbrians and North Lancastrians have their own heroes, their own Charities they like supported and issues that affect their lives. They should not have to be told to play second- fiddle to Manchester and Merseyside because of the higher populations there. BBC North West and ITV Granada should collaborate to ensure they are not duplicating areas and news, to make sure one of them covers more northerly parts of the North West and the Isle of Man so that viewers in those locations get good, meaningful coverage whilst the other broadcasters concentrates on the core urban areas. If this is not done OFCOM and those enforcing the BBC Royal Charter should intervene to make it happen, perhaps with the BBC mandated to create a new BBC North West Region covering Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man.
If you live anywhere north of Preston and want more localised coverage and wish to hear about your own communities, local heroes and issues then email the two main North West Regional Television News- providers:
BBC1 North West Tonight: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ITV1 Granada Reports: email@example.com
If the reply you receive is to the effect that you must put up with it because “Many More People Live in Greater Manchester and Liverpool” then you can email OFCOM (for ITV) . As they do not have an email address on their Complaints form I have found an email address for Kevin Backhust, the Executive Director of OFCOM who, if he gets a complaint that your Regional Television News provider is producing largely irrelevant news for your community and that you have complained to ITV1 Granada Reports to no avail he should be encouraged to jump on ITV1 Granada Reports from a great height: His email address is here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For BBC1 North West Tonight, they are governed by the new BBC Royal Charter so complaints should be directed at the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Write to the DCMS, not email, to be sure of your letter being read and acted upon. The Minister to contact and the address is:
The Right Hon. Sir Oliver Dowden, MP
Secretary of State for the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport
Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport
100 Parliament St, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 2BQ
The DCMS will deal with complaints about both the BBC and ITV with regards to Regional Television provision for your area. If a few of you who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire write in to the Right Hon. Oliver Dowden about how neither the BBC nor ITV provide good Regional News coverage for the area the DCMS will drop like a ton of bricks upon the Regional News programmers. They will then be compelled to act so that South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians hear more of the news that matters to them!