31st July 2021
Updated 13th September 2021
I have just caught up on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria version) which aired at 6.30.pm on 31st July 2021 across North East England and northern Cumbria. Although they do not usually do this, there were in fact four separate news-items about Cumbria on the programme, two of these being the headline items on ITV Border Lookaround.
Thus, notwithstanding the two news-items about Lancashire (nothing north of Preston, to be fair) on BBC North West Tonight last night the rest was about Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire (which I discuss here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2021/07/31/bbc-north-west-tonight-news-reporter-steven-saul-goes-native-and-did-not-cover-cumbria/). So, certainly considering last night, if you live in Carnforth, Ulverston, Kirkby Lonsdale or Heysham then- for getting more localised news to the north of you you would have been better off watching BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria)- to get more coverage of your own county or of places just north of you- rather than the sorry spectacle of presenter Steven Saul seemingly-forgetting his Lancastrian roots and “Going all Manchester and Liverpool” on BBC North West Tonight.
Think about that for a moment! For one night at least, the good folk of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire (whose default TV Regions are ITV Granada and BBC North West) would have received more geographic-appropriate coverage- about their county or within an hour’s drive of their home if they watched the Regional News from an adjacent TV Region- both on the BBC and ITV! If this is part of a trend, and BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) covers Cumbria more than three times on its main evening bulletins on a regular basis then it might make sense to switch over- then just watch That’s TV Lancashire (Freeview Channel 7) to get the Lancashire news!
Of course, whilst BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) covers Cumbria more it is neglecting it’s own northern hinterland, where viewers in northern Northumberland would be more interested in what’s happening over the Border into Scotland than in Cumbria, they might try to get ITV News Border (Scotland) to get more geographic- appropriate coverage in turn. Meanwhile, most viewers in North East England- who live in Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside- and who are not really interested in Cumbrian coverage might do better to stick with ITV1 News Tyne Tees which does not dilute coverage of their areas of North East England with 40% coverage of Cumbria (which is more appropriate to a northern North West England viewer-audience). Most of that northern North West England viewer- audience, for which it is appropriate for them to get news about Cumbria, is stuck with 80% coverage of Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire: Only viewers in northern and central Cumbria are in any TV Region by default that really covers Cumbria!
These anomalies, with 100,000’s of viewers not getting the Regional News coverage most appropriate for their communities, illustrate real deficiencies in Regional Television broadcasting across extensive areas of Northern England (North East as well as North West). However, unless people realise how they are being short- changed and complain to the BBC and ITV Regional TV producers, then complain to OFCOM and their MPs and they back this up with a threat to shop around for more geographic- appropriate Regional News coverage- the North West (and North East) Regional TV broadcasters will continue to take viewers in their northern hinterlands for granted (and effectively ignore them by covering their areas sparingly, if at all)!
It took five years of vigorous campaigning for North Cumbrians to get their beloved Mike Neville and BBC Look North (Newcastle) back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s- five years during which the BBC insisted that viewers from places like Carlisle, Longtown and Brampton in North Cumbria get the same Regional News service as folk living in Cheshire and Merseyside. But People-Power won the day and the BBC was forced to execute a U- turn (at considerable cost). Likewise, folk living in Carnforth, Kirkby Lonsdale and Millom can be just as insistent in their desire to be in a TV Region that covers Cumbria much more rather than Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire- because most or all of Cumbria is rather more local. If viewers in northern North West England wish to contact BBC North West and ITV Granada about the lack of geographic- appropriate local news- coverage, then contact OFCOM or the local MP details can be found on this Website at (https://northwestisnorthwest.org/important-contacts-to-write-to-about-regional-television/)
Regional TV services should primarily serve the communities that they are set up to serve: Thus the priority is Local (Immediate then Regionally) first, County second and Regional (i.e., the English North West) third. This is why the ideal Local News-service is one that has 80% coverage within 25 miles of one’s home (or thirty minutes’ travel time, whichever is the greater distance) with the remaining 20% being from 25 miles away up to 50 miles away (30 minutes to one hour’s travel time, whichever is the greater distance). On that basis, viewers living in the Kendal area (where the default BBC Regional News is North West Tonight) would have got more geographic- appropriate news from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) on the evening of Friday 30th July. Likewise, viewers in northern Lancashire would do better to try and get ITV1 News Border Lookaround for more geographic- appropriate coverage (most of the time). If you live in Lancaster, Morecambe or Carnforth, what happens in South Manchester and Liverpool is less local to you than what happens in Carlisle or Keswick- the latter of which is less than an hour’s travel time away. For really local news, ITV1 Granada Reports covers proportionally less news north of Preston (as per air-time) than ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround covers south of Shap and eastwards from Barrow-in-Furness (i.e. within 30 minutes’ travel time), so if you live in Carnforth or Morecambe you get a higher proportion of really local coverage by that measure from ITV1 News Border.
Northern pride is also a consideration. Viewers in North Lancashire are proud of the fact that they live in northern England as well as the fact that they live in the County of Lancaster. Their feelings about themselves and their “Northernness” is enhanced by getting news about other areas that enhances their sense of “Northernness” rather than diminishes it. So, not only do they want news about Lancashire (mainly northern Lancashire) but they would prefer other news to be north of them a bit more than to the south of them. They really do not wish to be associated with places and communities that they consider to be “Down South”, particularly if those places have little in common with their own communities. For instance, Cheshire is considered to have many areas that are well off and are considered to be “Posh” by folk living in North Lancashire and much of Cumbria, as well as Cheshire being a long way south: This partly explains the uproar that ensued when the BBC decided in its wisdom to put Carlisle and North Cumbria into the same BBC Region as Cheshire and Merseyside in the 1980’s! So if you are a proud North Lancastrian who lives near Carnforth or Morecambe you know which ITV1 Region will make you happier- and it is not ITV1 Granada Reports with its current spread of coverage.
If neither the BBC in the North West or ITV1 Granada are willing to correct some of these situations where viewers in the northern North West of England do not get the geographic- appropriate news- coverage -perhaps by providing opt-outs or by coming to an agreement whereby one of them will cover more of the geographic North West of England (which BBC North West is better-placed to provide)- then both mainstream North West Regional TV News services deserve to lose those viewers that they serve poorly in news- bulletins. If enough local viewers cottoned on to the fact that they can complain and bring pressure to bear by contacting OFCOM and their local MP, realised that other ITV1 and BBC1 Regions (and local outlets like That’s TV Lancashire) may provide better local news-coverage, that the Internet and Sky TV gives them choice to choose which is best for them- and then these viewers told the North West’s Regional TV providers that they have this choice and power then it is likely that Programmers at BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada will decide to make some real improvements for viewers in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire.