Preferences of Regional Television amongst Viewers in North Yorkshire have real relevance for North Lancastrian Viewers of mainstream NW Regional TV- services- and a Warning for Programmers.

13th July 2021

Dear Readers

The very fact that the two main North West Regional News- broadcasters are happy to just provide occasional snippets of news- coverage for viewers north of Preston and the Isle of Man- on the grounds that these viewers have no real alternatives and that the two big metropolises of Greater Manchester and Merseyside- should cause them concern. Across on the other side of the Pennines are the transmission areas of the ITV1 calendar (Yorkshire) and ITV1 Tyne Tees transmission Regions, which could be said to mirror ITV1 Granada and ITV1 Border respectively west of the Pennines (although they don’t quite exactly because the ITV1 Tyne Tees Region extends a bit further south than does ITV1 Border). In other words, the extreme north-east of the ITV1 Granada transmission Region has a boundary with that of the ITV1 Tyne Tees transmission region, somewhere north-east of the village of Ingleton in western North Yorkshire.

An important consideration here is that ITV1 Calendar is broadcast from Leeds, yet just 16 miles further north (near Harrogate- in southern North Yorkshire) viewers can (and do) easily watch ITV1 Tyne Tees programming broadcast from Gateshead (which is some eighty miles north of Harrogate)! It has been thus for many years and viewers in southern central North Yorkshire- in towns like Thirsk and Harrogate as well as in the cities of Ripon and York, viewers are quite happy with Regional News broadcast from Tyneside, which they can easily receive (here: https://ukfree.tv/maps/itv/11)!

Where viewers have a real choice between ITV1 Tyne Tees and ITV1 Calendar  (Yorkshire) Regional programming, in towns surprisingly far south in North Yorkshire (such as in Harrogate), a surprising proportion of viewers actually prefer the ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East programming- even though the town is just over 20 miles from Leeds. This point was once made in 1999 by the then- MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Mr. Phil Willis who pointed out that there were a number of his local constituents who preferred ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East and that in one block of flats in the centre of Harrogate the bottom two floors for ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) whilst the top two floors received ITV1 Calendar and BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire). As the MP pointed out, this caused arguments and strife amongst residents in this Harrogate block of flats (https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1999/apr/28/broadcasting-regional-coverage). This was in the analogue age, before Digital TV and widespread choices of different local and Regional News channels via Sky TV and via the Internet.             

This has interesting parallels- and thus a warning- for ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West with regards to their Lancashire viewers:  If ITV1 Border decides just to touch on North Lancashire occasionally (and believe you me, they have come close)- what could North Lancastrians do? The very similar underlying viewer- preferences that would drive North Yorkshire folk to eschew Yorkshire Regional TV News in favour of ITV1 Tyne Tees News-Programming or BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria version) could also drive viewers of Regional Television who live north of Preston in North West England into the arms of ITV1 Border if the right circumstances arise. The fact that this is so should have the main North West Regional News Programmers lying awake at night worrying about how to retain the loyalty of viewers in the north of their transmission areas- but it does not!

Indeed, the fact that places like Harrogate and Thirsk are in the Yorkshire Region (albeit North Yorkshire) does not stop them eschewing the Yorkshire Regional News programmes in favour of those based in North East England- particularly if they think places in the North East of England (like Middlesbrough or Darlington) are more local than Sheffield, Huddersfield, or Hull, and if they think that their local area is better covered on the North East Regional News- services. Likewise, in northern North West England, Lancaster and towns like Morecambe or Carnforth may have originally been part of the same pre-1974 county of Lancashire that Manchester and Liverpool were in- and this large area may thus be considered to be part of the old region of Lancastria. However, if viewers in Carnforth find 80% coverage of Manchester and Merseyside- over an hour to the south less relevant than a Regional TV service that provides 50% coverage of Cumbria (not far to the north) but cannot get the more northerly  news with a higher proportion of more local coverage they are entitled to feel aggrieved by it!   

In fact, viewers of North West Regional TV who live in South Cumbria and North Lancashire live further away from the areas that get the lions share of coverage in their North West Regional news than those southern North Yorkshire viewers of North-East based Regional TV live from most of the areas featured heavily in BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) and ITV1 News Calendar: Thus, the Regional News Programmers at ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West ought to be even more alarmed- because North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians are ripe for overtures from the Northern competition!

In order to appreciate why this should be so, and why the assumed- loyalty of North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians to either BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports is actually quite tenuous we need to understand what makes viewers in North Yorkshire prefer the North East Regional News- services to those based in Leeds:  Indeed, ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria Regional News- programming is universally chosen across the most northerly parts of North Yorkshire. There are four factors that influence folk with regards to Regional TV preferences living in any part of Northern England- including the northern Midlands- especially when they live well north of the designated highly- populated metropolitan regional centres that viewers are supposed to “Look to” as their go-to place for major shopping trips, attending concerts, football matches- and so on:

Firstly, most Northern folk outside of cities don’t visit them unless they absolutely Have Got To. Viewers associate with their community and the surrounding locations they most prefer to visit regularly. In these days of Amazon Prime and Yodel deliveries folk do not have to go into big cities as much as they used to. I would venture to suggest that some-one from Knaresborough or Harrogate would travel to the centre of Leeds because they had to– perhaps because they needed specialist surgery- rather than because they want to. The same argument applies to some-one living in Carnforth or Garstang travelling to Manchester. The big metropolitan areas have some attractions for some people (often younger folk who like the buzz, going to nightclubs and to pop- concerts but that is not the majority of folk living outside the cities in North West England). More often than not folk living outside the cities have negative associations with cities (otherwise it is likely they would choose to live in them)- these include urban pollution, the traffic, the crowds and- in some areas of the big urban centres a high risk of being attacked or robbed. This means that big cities are a lot more of a turn-off to thousands of folk who live across northern England than either the BBC and ITV- or their Regional News Producers- would care to admit!

Secondly, Viewers primarily want Local News. Away from the big cities, both in North Yorkshire east of the Pennines and northern Lancashire/ South Cumbria in North West England viewers do mainly want to know about their own area: They will have some interest in major happenings up to an hour’s travel-time away (to the north as well as the south) but, generally, the more Local/ Regional news that is within 30 minutes’ drive of one’s location the better. This is more likely to come from a Regional TV transmission area with a lower total population in it, and since the ITV1 Tyne Tees area has rather less folk living in its transmission area than the ITV1 Calendar (Yorkshire) area (which, by the way, extends south to cover northern Nottingham and Derbyshire) it means that folk living in North Yorkshire stand to enjoy more local coverage from the ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria Regional News- services. And so, they vote with their tellys: For the same reason, North Lancastrians would swivel their aerials around and watch ITV1 Border Lookaround if they started covering northern Lancashire more- since the much lower population of the ITV1 Border transmission region compared to ITV1 Granada means that North Lancastrians would enjoy a higher proportion of coverage with ITV1 Border Lookaround

Thirdly, People visit the Towns and Cities that are Nicer/ Easier to Get To if they Need to Travel to an Urban area. Viewers have different geographical and Regional affiliations than the Regional or county labels attached to their communities would indicate. East of the Pennines, folk living in Thirsk or Hawes in North Yorkshire would choose to travel to Darlington or even to Newcastle because it is either closer or because these places have more pleasant atmospheres than they would find in Leeds- that’s if they deemed it necessary to travel to a large town or city to get something (or even to go to the airport). And, if left to choice, a day out in the countryside would be preferable to many. Again, this argument applies west of the Pennines too- North Lancastrians seldom go to the middle of Manchester or Liverpool out of choice (unless they have family there), they would much rather have a day out in the Lake District if the weather is nice.

Finally, Northern country-dwellers like to look North: Viewers of Regional and local television in many parts of northern England and the northern Midlands are proud of the fact that they are Northerners, that they are apart from those living “Down South” that many Northerners consider have little or no relevance to their own lives. Northerners therefore like Regional News that confirms the Northerly latitude of their home and community. Thus, if anything proud Northerners like their news, if anything, to come from north of them a bit as that “Bigs Up” their sense of Northern-ness and enhances their Northern pride in the process.  This applies to viewers in Lancashire just as much as it applies to viewers in North Yorkshire- and it explains why many viewers in places like Harrogate are happy to get Regional News- programming from Tyneside rather than from Leeds (less than 20 miles to the south). That this applies across North West England too is indicated by the indignation of one viewer from Warrington who retorted “Is Staffordshire in the North West?!” when BBC1 North West Tonight referred to Alton Towers (northern Staffordshire) being closed last summer. Yet viewers in Warrington (northern Cheshire) would happily accept news about Cumbria- which is further away to the north of them.

When all this is put together, and it is applied to northern Lancashire and South Cumbria it is perhaps surprising that there are viewers there that remain loyal to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports. However, in the digital age viewers can shop around and watch other ITV1 and BBC1 Regions that are not their default Regions. There are other more localised outlets like That’s TV Cumbria, and That’s TV Lancashire that are available. These localised TV News outlets might not be high quality, but they provide local news, something that ITV1 Granada Reports struggles to provide for anyone north of Wigan! Were the localised That’s TV programming a bit more professionalised they could start providing real competition- as could Internet outlets such as LancsLive or Cumbria Crack if they moved more into watchable “Local News” programming (even if just on the Internet).

As things stand, the northern North West is fertile territory for ITV1 Border if that ITV1 outlet recognised the need in the market and started to make overtures towards northern Lancashire, although OFCOM guidelines prohibit more than 20% of coverage “out of area” for ITV1 Regional News services. However, the reason that viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria remain with the mainstream North West Regional TV services is because they feel that there really is nothing better if they want to what Local/ Regional Television. Viewers have been misinformed of other TV Regions so they “Stick with Nurse for Fear of Worse”, as it were, and they are not told about other Localised News- services in these three ways:

Firstly, Viewers in North Lancashire and South Cumbria are told by the mainstream North West Regional TV News- services that other TV Regions provide even worse local coverage, and they are told that by officialdom. At present, North Lancastrians considering trying to switch to ITV1 Border would be told “With ITV Border the News is Mostly about Scotland” and secondly that “Border TV does not cover Lancashire, it covers the Scottish Borders”. They would be told that by friends and colleagues (also misinformed) and by ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West. And so, the viewers concerned would sigh and decide “Oh well! Stick with what we know!”.

It’s really no different to how Labour politicians have kept voters in northern communities from voting for the Conservatives- even though Labour have been pro-EU, pro-immigration and multi-cultural for years (and a serious disconnect has developed between the Labour Party leadership and their traditional voter- base that they took for granted). Labour convinced voters that the Conservative Party stood for Cuts, privatising the NHS, and turfing single mothers onto the street to die! This “Project Fear” worked, until during 2018 and 2019 these self- same voters saw Labour politicians voting to frustrate the Brexit that those same voters voted for in 2016- leaving them furious. They then were willing to take a risk and voted for the Conservatives for the first time in their lives because Boris Johnson promised to “Get Brexit Done”.  Viewers are also left with the impression that they cannot get alternative ITV1 and BBC1 Regions to the ones that they are “supposed” to watch, which in the Internet age is really no longer true. Hopefully, viewers in northern Lancashire will soon find out soon that ITV1 Border’s Lookaround has a lot of coverage of Cumbria and will occasionally even touch on Lancastrian issues, that they can easily get it without great cost- and then they will have a massive reappraisal of what they have been led to believe.

Secondly, Viewers in northern Lancashire are also told that there are no other Regional TV News services that serve their county- or if they exist that they are rubbish and not true Regional TV services. Again, that is not strictly true. If viewers have Freeview they can watch That’s TV Lancashire at 6.pm on weekdays on Freeview Channel 7. Sure, it’s just ten minutes and the quality of presentation might not be like on BBC1 North West Tonight, but it is ten minutes of news just about Lancashire. Yes, you can make yourself a coffee, put the TV on Freeview Channel 7, sit back and and watch some truly local news. If you have a computer and Internet you can also go onto LancsLive (here: https://www.lancs.live/) and that has local news plus it has video clips. This is not TV, but you can watch it and hear the video clips and- if you are busy- it might be all you have time for. But it is local, it certainly exists and neither ITV1 Granada nor BBC1 North West can stop you finding out about them!

Thirdly, It is assumed by the BBC and ITV.Plc that viewers who live in northern Lancashire or in South Cumbria must want the mainstream North West Regional TV services, because they do (after all) live in the North West of England, and that they must/ should “Look to Manchester” because that is their main go-to Regional centre for shopping, going to concerts… and the like. Folk in Lancashire then believe this because that is what they are told by officialdom. On that basis, they are then persuaded to watch BBC1 North West Tonight and/ or ITV1 Granada Reports for their Regional and Local News- coverage!  But there is no reason why North Lancastrians should “Look to Manchester” any more than the inhabitants in Thirsk or Northallerton in North Yorkshire should “Look to Leeds” because they are in Yorkshire!

What arrogance is in such presumption to tell viewers of Regional Television that they should watch these programmes because they live in a certain administrative area! It’s effectively telling people that they “SHOULD” associate with a major city over an hour to the south of them just because they live in North West England. It’s like Labour going around telling voters who are not well off that they “SHOULD” vote Labour because they earn less than £20,000 a year and live in a Council house! People should feel under no obligation to vote a particular way based on their social status and should be free to vote for whichever party that they consider has the best policies for them and their families-which is why Polling booths exist!!

Likewise, folk should be free to associate with their local community and places that they like to visit which, in the case of northern Lancashire, will often be in Cumbria to the north of them because they are nice places to visit. Or, if you live somewhere like Nelson or Slaidburn – and love visiting the nearby Yorkshire Dales- nothing is to stop you, the Viewer, from re-jigging your aerial (and maybe getting the Freeview technician to put a North Yorkshire post-code into the Freeview Digi Box) so that you pick up That’s TV North Yorkshire (also Freeview Channel 7).

The most extreme example of the BBC’s demonstration of such presumptive chutzpa is when, back in 1986, the BBC decided Carlisle and northern Cumbria’s viewers should get BBC1 North West Tonight and “Look to Manchester” because they are in North West England. Whilst that may be true, and whilst there is a case for Cumbrians having a different North West/ Scottish Borders- flavoured Regional News- service that does not mean 80% of coverage south of Preston (and 100 or more miles away)! That episode did not end well for the BBC, and they had to exercise a complete U-turn and return northern Cumbria to BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria)- at considerable expense to the BBC!     

Viewers should feel free to watch whatever Local or Regional TV service (or combination of services) that they think covers their areas best and/ or addresses their concerns best.  It should then be up to the main North West Regional TV providers to provide content that pleases viewers in Lancashire and south Cumbria if they do not want to lose those viewers to Market competition.

So, in three ways- North Lancastrian and South Cumbrian viewers are persuaded to put up with often largely-irrelevant Regional and Local News that’s skewed towards the main conurbations well to the south: They are told that BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada are the only ones that cover their area best, that there are no other localised Regional News services (or if they are, they are not watchable on a television or they are rubbish) and that because they live in Lancashire or South Cumbria that they ought to watch Manchester- based output because they live in North West England.

But one day, viewers in northern North West England will find out for themselves what is best for them, for their local communities and their families. And when they do, there will be no stopping them switching their aerials round, getting the Sky technician to programme their televisions to receive other Regional TV News- services and- in the process- sending some sharp home- truths in the direction of ITV1 Granada News- programmers explaining why they are leaving them!

In the meantime, this Website will continue to inform viewers of Regional Television across northern North West England what ITV1 Border Lookaround offers, what That’s TV Lancashire offers- which is (contrary to what they might otherwise have been led to believe) much more localised news just northwards and southwards of their communities, respectively.                      

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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