ITV BORDER CAN CATER FOR ALL THE NORTHERN NORTH WEST OF ENGLAND WITHOUT DILUTING EXISTING COVERAGE

6th July 2021

Dear Readers

Viewers of Regional Television who live in most of Cumbria, that is all of northern and West Cumbria- along with that part of south and south-west Cumbria north of Kendal enjoy an excellent Regional News service that provides 50% coverage of Cumbria, sometimes more. This is ITV1 Border’s flagship Regional News programme Lookaround, it provides an alternative to the regional output from BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) with it’s 85% coverage of North East England and North Yorkshire that most of this part of Cumbria receives. Viewers in northern parts of South Cumbria receive their BBC1 Regional output from BBC1 North West Tonight, which is 80% about Manchester, Merseyside and South Lancashire so the alternative of ITV1 Border with excellent coverage locally and just north of them ensures that, if they watch ITV1 Border’s Lookaround at 6.pm on weekdays, then BBC1 North West Tonight at 6.30 pm these viewers living in or just north of Kendal gain good local and all-round news-coverage.

VIEW DOWN THE NENT VALLEY TOWARDS ALSTON, NORTH EAST CUMBRIA (MARCH 2017): THIS IS A SMALL PART OF CUMBRIA THAT CANNOT EASILY GET ITV1 BORDER OUTPUT AND IT IS THEREFORE STUCK WITH A REGIONAL NEWS SERVICE THAT DOES NOT COVER CUMBRIA WELL, IF AT ALL.

However, the part of South Cumbria immediately south of Kendal and arcing westwards up to (and including) Millom in south-west Cumbria receives ITV1 Granada Reports as it’s default ITV1 Regional news-programme, which is even worse at covering places north of Preston than is BBC1 North West Tonight. In the north-east of Cumbria, viewers on Alston Moor, in the North Pennines receive ITV1 News Tyne Tees as their default ITV1 Regional news which does not cover Cumbria at all and is 100% about the North East of England and North Yorkshire. Although Alston and the surrounding villages are away to the east of much of Cumbria and local folks have strong links across the county boundary into Northumberland, news which is mainly about Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside (over an hour’s drive away) is scarcely local and the predominantly urban concerns of the Regional News output would have relatively little salience in the North Pennines.

However, there are other parts of northern North West England that would plainly benefit from being part of the ITV1 Border transmission region rather than that of ITV1 Granada: Viewers in Lancashire northwards of Preston, including the Fylde Coast and upper Ribble Valley would benefit in terms of coverage by being part of a much lower transmission area if they were transferred to ITV1 Border than they are in the ITV1 Granada region- and they would get coverage locally and just to the north of them instead of having two Regional TV choices, both of which are skewed well to the south.

The Isle of Man is a small country in its own right in the Irish Sea, yet viewers there only have the choice between ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight: The news-coverage of barely 5% of total coverage of the Isle of Man on either Regional News programme is an insult to all Manx viewers- and for them there really is no viable alternative (at the moment).   For all these areas of northern North West England and the Isle of Man where the default ITV1 Region is not ITV1 Border the choices of proper Regional Television News programming are shocking.

There is That’s TV Cumbria (Freeview Channel 8, 6 pm on weekdays), That’s TV Lancashire (Freeview Channel 7, 6 pm on weekdays)- both these local That’s TV News programmes only have ten minutes’ coverage daily. However, the Isle of Man TV is You Tube based (so folk with no computer and no Internet- i.e., many of those over age 65 cannot watch it). The That’s TV local channels are not of excellent journalistic quality and aside from the obvious local-news slots most of the programming on those channels would discourage a high proportion of viewers tuning in in any case! For Manx viewers, having to use a You Tube site to find out what is going on in your own nation is appalling- even Rwanda which is one of the poorest malnourished countries in the World has its own TV News station!

All things considered, it is not acceptable for almost one million inhabitants who live in South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and the Isle of Man to be without their own high- quality bespoke Regional Television News service. The entire That’s TV Local News services are struggling financially, having been hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic hitting advertising revenues and it is quite likely that the whole thing will soon fold leaving viewers in Lancashire and South Cumbria without their bespoke local bulletins.

One solution would be for the ITV1 Regional News service best- placed to serve the northern North West of England and the Isle of Man fully steps up to the plate. ITV1 Border’s transmission area should be extended to include all of South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and (as in the past) the Isle of Man. To address concerns over dilution of coverage for existing viewers the old Selkirk (Scottish Borders) news-room should be re-established for viewers in Scotland. It already exists and viewers of the Scottish version of ITV1 Border do get some of their own bespoke news- programming with programmes such as Border Life and Representing Border– these programmes focus on the concerns of viewers in southern Scotland. However, the return of split broadcasting for southern Scotland, with a 15 minute opt-out in the main Regional News programme Lookaround would enable ITV1 Border (England) to maintain 50% coverage of Cumbria for viewers across the county whilst giving northern Lancashire and the Isle of Man at least 15% of coverage each. For viewers in northern North West England and the Isle of Man 15% of the remaining news on ITV1 Border (England) would then be about southern Scotland with the remaining 5% apportioned with discretion across the ITV Border (England) and Isle of Man area- and occasional coverage of major happenings as far south as Manchester, as far east as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and as far north as Glasgow/ Edinburgh.

Another possibility is that ITV1 Border provide a guaranteed minimum of 14 news items on Lookaround divided up in a manner that the new areas can be catered for whilst ensuring existing viewers don’t feel coverage of their areas is compromised. The new ITV1 Border area should get the 14 news items apportioned as follows:

  1. Cumbria- four news- items
  2. Northern Lancashire- one news- item
  3. Isle of Man- two news- items
  4. Northern Northumberland/ Scottish Borders- two news- items
  5. South West Scotland- three news- items
  6. Headline news-item (anywhere in transmission area)
  7. Most serious happening anywhere in an area extending from Manchester in the south up to Glasgow/ Edinburgh in the north and eastwards to a line stretching from Harrogate to Tyneside- and including the Isle of Man.

With the main bulletins divided up geographically in this way the headline news-item would be apportioned three minutes and the serious news-item would cover another three minutes. Then of the remaining 12 items two would be for two minutes and the remaining ten items would average a minute each (with some discretion from ITV1 Border News Editors to make five of these ten news-items two minutes’ duration- if they see fit to have very little Sports coverage). However, to be something for every with ten remaining items being one minute each that would still allow five minutes for Sports coverage (quite sufficient for ITV1 Border’s rural transmission area) and the weather forecast.

The apportioning of coverage in the main evening news- bulletins in this manner would ensure no-one would be short-changed. Just one item is listed for northern Lancashire, but since they would have half the population of the new ITV1 Border transmission area it is odds- on that North Lancastrians would find coverage of their county in either the serious news -item (7 above) or the other headline news-item (6 above). The Isle of Man’s viewers would be happy with the guarantee of two news-items about their small country (and they will often get a third through (6) or (7) above). Cumbrians, guaranteed a minimum of four news-items but often getting five will continue to be really happy with ITV1 Border’s Lookaround .

Viewers in South West Scotland would enjoy the guarantee of at least three news-items a night (something that this huge area encompassing the Southern Uplands and Galloway/ South Ayrshire Coast is not guaranteed at a minimum at present). Viewers in northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders would also benefit from the minimum guarantee of two items for that vast region- particularly as the expanded ITV1 Border Region would encompass rural northern Northumberland where viewers currently find little news- coverage gets north of the River Tyne in their current default ITV1 Tyne Tees Region. 

The short four-minute bulletins at weekends and in the mornings on ITV1 Border should be apportioned as follows:

  1. Serious headline news-item (anywhere in transmission area- with discretion to News Editors to extend north to Glasgow/ Edinburgh, south as far as Manchester and east as far as Tyneside only for really serious matters)
  2. Cumbria news- item
  3. Scottish Borders/ north Northumberland news- item
  4. South West Scotland/ Isle of Man news- item
  5. Another news-item from anywhere in the new ITV1  Border transmission area.

In these shorter bulletins the headline news-feature would be one minute long whilst the other four news-features would be thirty seconds in length- followed by a one-minute weather bulletin. Thus, even in a short four-minute bulletin there is certain to be something for every part of what is quite a large transmission area. Nothing is specified for northern Lancashire but since this would be the most populous part of the expanded ITV1 Border Region (and would account for half the 1.6 million inhabitants of the new transmission area) it is odds-on that they would either be covered in news-item 5 or news-item 1- and that is more than northern Lancashire gets in the main bulletins with ITV1 Granada Reports! Even in the very short bulletins Cumbrians would be guaranteed at least one item of news- coverage and would probably get two whilst folk north of the Border would still get one or two news-items.

However, even though re-configuring the programming to provide excellent coverage right across this expanded area is possible, it is unlikely that Programmers at ITV1 Border would be willing to take back the Isle of Man and northern Northumberland whilst expanding their remit to cover northern Lancashire too. ITV1 Border’s Programmers, rightfully mindful of diluting coverage for their existing viewers will be very reluctant to take on new areas- even if it is patently clear that ITV1 Granada is failing it’s viewers in South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and the Isle of Man and it is patently clear that neither ITV1 Tyne Tees or BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) are too exercised what their North Northumbrian viewers need- i.e., geographic- appropriate Regional and Local News- coverage!               

Certainly, for viewers of Regional Television who live in northern North West England or on the Isle of Man, who are stuck with ITV1 Granada Reports or BBC1 North West Tonight ITV1 Border should take custody of those neglected areas and either ensure excellent coverage through opt-outs or the re-configuring of their news-programming. This is what should happen because ITV1 Granada is even less willing to cover northern North West England and the Isle of Man well- and it does not have the infrastructure already in-place to support opt-out regional news programming.

However, it is certain that, on the grounds of cost, ITV.Plc will not even countenance all South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and the Isle of Man being transferred to their ITV1 Border Region (with ITV1 Border being given the resources to resume opt-out news-programming for just north of the Border)- let alone force its Granada News-operation to provide opt-out coverage for the Isle of Man, northern Lancashire, and South Cumbria! ITV1 Border is in no hurry to expand its remit to cover other neglected areas just outside the southern and eastern margins of its current large transmission area and neither wants the expense of providing opt-outs and News- Programmers at ITV1 Border fear diluting coverage for its existing viewers without a separate Scottish opt-out- even in the event of reconfiguring it’s coverage as outlined. 

The BBC is in no mood to provide opt-out Regional News- programming for South Cumbria, northern Lancashire, and the Isle of Man from within BBC1 North West Tonight for the same reasons. But this is clearly not good enough when, in the mean-time, potentially one million inhabitants between Preston and Kendal – and along the south-west Cumbrian coast and on the Isle of Man, suffer a choice of poor Regional News services that are not geographic- appropriate and where the content is largely irrelevant to viewers’ local communities.

The only way either the BBC or ITV.Plc are going to sit up and take notice- and provide the better Regional and Local News- services that viewers in the northern North West of England and on the Isle of Man really need is if they feel that it is in their interests to provide it. If the BBC and ITV1 Granada in the North West of England think that they might lose support and money, if they think they might get fined for not following BBC Charter and OFCOM regulations with respect to providing all areas with good geographic- appropriate Regional News coverage, if they think they will lose viewers (and thus money from advertising) over the issue they will provide a good relevant North West Regional TV News service (and an Isle of Man News service) that is geographic- appropriate to Carnforth, Millom or Douglas- not just Cheadle, Manchester or Dunham-Massey. They will do this to either avoid fines from OFCOM or to avoid the loss of viewers and the attendant loss of advertising revenue and the loss of their own raison d’être (with which, for BBC1 North West Tonight, the BBC would pull funding!).

To bring about such a change with both the BBC and ITV1 Granada in North West England feeling pressure from OFCOM and the government at one end- and from viewers threatening to “Vote with their Tellys” at the other- is when viewers in northern North West England realise (collectively) that they have the power to bring about change- firstly by writing to the News-Editors at ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West- telling them that Regional and Local news-coverage north of Preston is unacceptable, pointing out that ITV1 Border covers Cumbria very well, which is more local to Manchester and Liverpool to the northern North West of England and threatening to switch channels if improvements are not made. Viewers should then escalate by writing to (not emailing) OFCOM, their local Member of Parliament and the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (currently Right Hon. Sir Oliver Dowden, MP for Hertsmere) if responses from both BBC North West and ITV1 Granada suggest nothing is going to be done to improve Regional News coverage for South Cumbria or northern Lancashire.

If you live in parts of extreme north-east Cumbria (like Alston Moor) and cant get ITV1 Border you need to write to complain to BBC North East/ Cumbria to say you would like more coverage of northern Cumbria, and write to ITV1 Tyne Tees to say you are not getting geographic- appropriate news, whilst suggesting that you are in the wrong ITV1 Region- and should be transferred to ITV1 Border!

The more local folk complain about the North West Regional TV- and the fact that it does not cover the northern two-thirds of geographical North West England at all well- and escalate to OFCOM, their local MP and Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, the more those with authority over the North West Regional Television services will apply some real pressure of their own.

If all else fails, and despite you escalating (as above) and getting as many of your friends to do likewise OFCOM and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport just conclude that tens to hundreds of North Lancastrian and Manx viewers complaining are just “Moaning Minnies Stirring Up Trouble” then the following avenue should be explored.

Viewers should then write to ITV Border at btvnews@itv.com and to the Regional News Presenters at ITV1 Border Lookaround Amy Lea and Ian Payne at amyandian@itv.com:Tell them that you wish to watch their news because they cover Cumbria- which is more local to your area than Manchester and Liverpool- extremely well. Suggest to ITV Border programmers the methods whereby they could accommodate the Isle of Man and North Lancashire without diluting coverage for Cumbria and southern Scotland).   

If ITV1 Border won’t even consider expanding their remit to cover other parts of the northern North West of England that ITV1 Granada has effectively ignored (for fear of diluting coverage) tell them you will watch ITV1 Border programming anyway (for Cumbrian news)- and that you will get your Lancashire news off That’s TV Lancashire. Then write to OFCOM and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to ask them to get ITV1 Border to take responsibility for your part of northern North West England, if OFCOM and DCMS are unwilling to make either ITV1 Granada or BBC1 North West cover areas north of Preston well suggest they should- at least- make ITV1 Border take on all of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire so that your area gets better geographic- appropriate coverage. For ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West News-Editors it is likely that news will filter back of viewers in the north of their respective transmission areas communicating with ITV1 Border (and asking OFCOM to make ITV1 Border take over responsibility for all South Cumbria and northern Lancashire), that’s if more than a few viewers do this. The result of that will be North West Regional News Programmers would become really shocked and worried about losing viewers (and- in turn- money). And that will have more mileage with getting the North West Regional News Programmers to cover all of North West England- properly- than just complaining about Regional News coverage north of Preston and getting OFCOM to put pressure on from above.

I would be very surprised if neither BBC1 North West or ITV1 Granada decide to make substantial improvements to coverage of northern Lancashire, Cumbria, and the Isle of Man if they feared real competition to the north. My take on it is that BBC1 North West would be more pliable under such pressure since their transmission area covers more of Cumbria than does ITV1 Granada’s transmission area. Furthermore, ITV1 Border is direct competition with the BBC as it comes from ITV.Plc- and with the BBC currently under pressure from the Conservative Government over continued TV License Fee revenues Regional News Programmers at BBC North West will not countenance a further erosion of their raison d’être.     

Contact details for BBC1 North West, ITV1 Granada, OFCOM, the Department for Digital Culture Media and details for contacting your local Member of Parliament can be found at: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/important-contacts-to-write-to-about-regional-television/

Published by northwestisnorthwest

I live near Alston in north -east Cumbria (and yes, it is in North West England). I have friends who live in the middle part of North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 14 years ago). 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! 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!!

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