12th June 2021
NOT for the first time during the Coronavirus pandemic has ITV1 Border’s flagship Regional News programme Lookaround– which is broadcast to most of Cumbria and to southern Scotland- touched upon developments with regard to rising Covid-19 cases in Lancashire and Greater Manchester in order to warn their loyal Cumbrian viewers of the perils of travelling south. In fact Friday morning’s short ITV1 Border bulletin also had a feature mentioning Covid cases are starting to pick up in Cumbria and that this could be driven by people travelling to east Lancashire and Greater Manchester where cases of the new Indian variant of Covid 19 are much higher (link here from ITV1 Border’s website: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2021-06-10/covid-cumbrians-urged-to-minimise-travel-to-lancashire-and-greater-manchester-after-cases-double-in-week).
Of course, even in the short morning bulletins ITV1 Border covers Cumbria extremely well, probably a little more than it covers the entire area of southern Scotland that receives ITV1 Border programming. The short bulletin on Friday morning discussed issues surrounding care in a South Cumbrian care home, a pile-up on the A5086 near Cockermouth and the issue of Cumbrians travelling into Covid 19 hot-spots in other parts of North West England (details here for anyone wishing to check the bulletin out https://twitter.com/i/status/1403240380334813189). Over the last couple of days, ITV1 Border has also linked to news about Northumberland (an ancient artifact found at Vindolanda Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall) and Harrison Ford filming in the Scottish Borders, so ITV1 Border does provide with good all-round local news- coverage, particularly for viewers who live in northern Cumbria. There is, for instance, a lot of news that is Immediate Local, i.e., within 30 minutes’ drive of where most people in Cumbria live and there is some news (perhaps one item out of ten or 15 news-items) that is about significant happenings up to an hour’s travel-time away (to the north, east, south or west), i.e. what could be defined as Regionally Local.
This is what makes a very good Local and Regional News- service, with news that is geographic- appropriate. Viewers who live in northern Cumbria who watch ITV1 Border not only have an excellent Regional News service that covers Cumbria (often over 50% coverage) but it is Regionally appropriate too- Cumbria is in North West England which ITV1 Border does allude to (even with United Utilities sponsoring of the Weather Forecast- with the strap-line “Providing Water for the North West”!), but the news- service is also geographically- appropriate with coverage across the Scottish Border in- Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders- and the odd feature about western Northumberland.
However, it is what happens when viewers who live in those parts of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire with ITV1 Granada Reports as their default ITV1 Region discover how ITV1 Border covers Cumbria extremely well- and will also touch on Lancashire happenings on occasion. A look through ITV1 Granada Reports Twitter feed provides a proxy of the areas they cover; there has been some more coverage of the Isle of Man recently (mainly because of the annual TT Races, but also because of the Isle of Man hosting its first- ever Gay Pride event). Almost all remaining coverage- over the last few days seems to be Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire- with only the ongoing Covid-19 situation in east Lancashire being the only significant Lancashire news- coverage.
In the context of viewers who live in more northern parts of North West England- but still in the ITV1 Granada transmission area- as well as on the Isle of Man which also receives ITV1 Granada output (and where the treatment of homosexuals is not high on most folks’ agendas), the foundations are being laid for a major insurrection and re-alignment of viewer-preferences: It is not just about the fact that ITV1 Border’s Lookaround might be more geographic- appropriate for viewers who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire compared to ITV1 Granada Report’s output (possible if ITV1 Border touches on Lancashire at times); but about the ability of ITV1 Granada Reports programmers to identify with the major viewer- concerns further north. That said, there are probably 100,000’s of viewers in Manchester and in the Liverpool City Region who obsess about Black Lives Matter, about the right ethnic make-up of news-readers (such viewers would be impressed by ITV1 Granada Reports being right-on in hiring a new news- presenter who was born in West Africa), and about Gay Pride marches: That’s great, ITV1 Granada Reports provides a lot of content (and presenters) that they would certainly be very happy with. Of course, both Manchester and Merseyside get a massive amount of local news- coverage from ITV1 Granada Reports, to the extent that -if one lives in these metropolises- ITV1 Granada Reports should be the go-to Local and Regional Television News-service.
However, if you draw a line across North West England so that it dissects Southport in the west and Rochdale in the east one effectively draws a boundary separating two different cultures. Immediately to the south are the woke Metropolitan areas (although even in Manchester and Liverpool far from everyone obsesses about whether the news- reader is from a non-white, ethnic minority group or whether gays are discriminated against). To the north, by and large, live the indigenous English populations of North West England (except for pockets in cities and large towns like Preston and Blackburn with higher Asian populations): The English-born-and-bred Lancastrians- many of whom live in quite rural areas, have different worries and concerns than the Woke-obsessed inhabitants a bit further south. These viewers do not find that ITV1 Granada Reports is on their wavelength much of the time – and that applies across a range of issues from poverty in coastal resorts, rural poverty in the farming community..to rural crime, Cumbrian truckers with long tiring journeys, late spring frosts damaging fruit crops and North Lancastrian Gypsies needing to be told about Appleby Fair in Cumbria (it’s been postponed this year and a number of them have made long and difficult journeys in vain, possibly because none of the main North West Regional News broadcasters wanted to cover this significant event because it’s just beyond their “Patch”!).
Regional News programmers for both ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight (though to a lesser extent) have long taken their more northerly viewers for granted: The programmers think folk living in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire “Look to Manchester and Liverpool, therefore they identify with Mancunian and Liverpudlian concerns because they are still in North West England”. To whatever extent that may have ever been true when folk had to travel to big cities to buy specialist items, to commute to well-paid jobs or go to the Airport, this is much less true today when folk can buy specialist goods online and get it delivered and can work from home (a trend accelerated by recent Covid-19 restrictions). Moreover, if folk in Lancashire have the choice, they prefer the countryside to an inner city- where these days any stars that you are more likely to see outside at night would result from being smacked over the head by some yob with a baseball bat! This is one reason why house prices increase from south to north as you travel from Merseyside to the Lake District.
Viewers at ITV1 Granada Reports and (to a lesser extent) BBC1 North West Tonight have long thought that viewers in South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and on the Isle of Man are not so important because they think “They have nowhere else to go”- and, in any case, the Programmers will always prioritise Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire because those areas have the lion’s share of the population of their transmission areas. Thus, viewers further north and on the Isle of Man are forced to tolerate what there is because- as they may have even been told “There Is No Alternative”. And so, confident in the belief that viewers in North Lancashire and the Isle of Man “Will Never Choose ITV Border because That’s Mainly About Southern Scotland”, the North West Regional News Programmers feel confident that they can continue to largely ignore viewers who live North of Preston: This attitude is exemplified by ITV1 Granada’s programme The Granada Debate– almost always the selected MPs represent Constituencies along the M62 Corridor or in Cheshire, almost never is an MP selected from a Constituency in Lancashire or Cumbria- and as for the politics on the Isle of Man (with its own Parliament) well that never happens!
However, a time may soon come (possibly within the next few years) when a significant number of viewers in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire discover that they quite like ITV1 Border’s Lookaround because of the extensive coverage of Cumbria, with Lancashire issues touched on at times, rather than being uncomfortable with the coverage of southern Scotland they may be delighted with a “Real Northern News- service that enhances Northern Pride”. These viewers may well discover- in increasing numbers- how the news-coverage from ITV1 Border speaks their language on a range of issues (like rural poverty, hill-farming and the championing of some lovely countryside). Once a few hundred viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria have made the switch, discover that ITV1 Border’s Lookaround provides a more- relevant news-service than ITV1 Granada Reports or even BBC1 North West Tonight in a number of ways (even if not necessarily Immediate Local) then the words of recommendation from hundreds of friends to several thousands of their friends will lead to a trickle becoming a flood- a flood of thousands of North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians writing to ITV1 Granada’s Lucy Meacock and her right-on co-presenter in revenge “I’ve found Some-one…To take away the Heartbreak. To Take Away the Abandonment!” (Words courtesy of Cher, though I made that last bit up!): Then thousands of North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians will indeed “Vote with their Tellys”, and switch their aerials to point north and find the sympathetic embrace of warmth and interest in their issues and their concerns that veteran news-reader Ian Payne and new co- presenter Amy Lea will bring in ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. Upon making the switch, North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians will meet one fantastic journalist (whom I knew personally and I attended church with her wonderful family in the past)- Fiona Marley Paterson- who covers South Cumbria (and who has a real care for the local viewers and who understands their concerns), she covers Cumbrian issues with a real passion.
And ITV1 Border’s Lookaround has been touching on Lancashire issues at times, if only for the benefit of their (at present) Cumbrian viewers. Once the word really gets out and large numbers of viewers in towns like Carnforth, Hornby, Kirkby Lonsdale, Ulverston, Crooklands and Grange-over-Sands start to feel that ITV1 Border’s Lookaround rather more covers their local issues, speaks their language and covers their concerns than ITV1 Granada Reports (and above all, ITV1 Border is not obsessed with trendy Metropolitan Woke issues that are a million miles from North Lancastrians’ everyday lives) it will be bad news for programmers at ITV Granada in Salford: For ITV1 Granada Reports‘ grip on communities northwards of Preston will become history! To a lesser extent, this will also become true for BBC1 North West Tonight. Not even Roger Johnson and Owain Wyn Evans’ charm will keep viewers in the northern North West loyal when they discover Fiona Marley Paterson with her real passion for the South Lakes (areas that are right on the doorstep of Carnforth, Morecambe or Garstang) and her care for viewers and their concerns!
And this Website, which campaigns for better and improved Regional News coverage for all areas north Of Preston, which seeks to inform viewers of the alternatives will aim to hasten the day when ITV1 Granada bosses (and those at BBC North West) discover that there is real competition for their northerly viewers. Perhaps that will be the day that both BBC North West and ITV Granada stump up the cash to provide opt-out coverage for Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man- so that they don’t lose those viewers to a Carlisle-based competitor: That would indeed be a good day for viewers who live and work north of Preston and on the Isle of Man- who would finally get the proper geographic- appropriate North West Regional News- service that they fully deserve!