13th August 2021
Viewers of local and Regional Television on the Isle of Man, which is actually a small country in its own right though it is a Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom, get a really raw deal from Television News. They receive ITV1 and BBC1 from the British mainland which provide “Local” and Regional News that is mainly about Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire and south Lancashire, with the Isle of Man getting one item of news-coverage a night if they are fortunate. This is the case if they watch BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports.
Now, all of North West England is at least two hours and 45 minutes away by ferry- that’s the time the fastest ferries take to sail from Douglas to Liverpool and- in practice- a journey from somewhere on the Isle of Man, waiting to get the car on the ferry and driving to Manchester, or Cheshire (say) will involve travel times of four or five hours and, if the Douglas to Liverpool ferry is not running, the ferry from Douglas to Heysham, in North Lancashire takes over four hours- and then it is a further hour and a half to get by car to Manchester or Liverpool. Distance-wise, it is over 125 miles from Douglas to Manchester- via Heysham and 143 miles from Jurby, in the north-west of the Isle of Man to Manchester (again via the Douglas to Heysham ferry then driving down the M6 and M61).
The Isle of Man is its own small country with a population of 84,584 (in 2019): That’s greater than the Faeroe Islands with a total population of less than 50,000 according to the 2011 census. However, even leaving that aside communities that are 120 to 145 miles away (and with travel times typically four hours) from the urban North West of England should never have imposed on them news-coverage which is 80% about Manchester, Liverpool, and Cheshire *which is what the output from ITV Granada Reports tends to be!). For want of looking at a similar parallel it is like expecting folk living in northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (or in Pembrokeshire, South Wales) to accept ITV Granada Reports as their “Local and Regional News”. If the BBC or ITV even considered this as a proposal they would be effectively vaporised by the Viewers in Northumberland, the Scottish Borders or Pembrokeshire! Yet the good folk on the Isle of Man is expected to accept both the BBC and ITV producing a “Local News service” mainly about Greater, Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire and South Lancashire.
However, that’s not all because just about every independent country in the World has it’s own TV Station providing news tailored to the needs of viewers: Even the Faeroe Islands, a small country with a population less than 50,000 has it’s own TV station called Kringvarp Føroya (more of which here: https://kvf.fo/forsida/english), which produces news- output specifically tailored to the Faeroe Islands and in Faeroese (there is an English version too, so you can check it out from the above link). It is a shocking state of affairs that one does not exist for the Isle of Man, and one has to wonder what the Manx government has been doing all these years by not making possible the setting up of a Manx Television station to provide news about the Isle of Man for Manx viewers. There was until recently Manx Telecom TV, an online pay-per-view TV service for Manx viewers with specifically- tailored Isle of Man news: However, Manx Telecom TV closed down on 31st December 2020 after nine years in operation, so the Isle of Man does not have it’s own Manx TV service at all except for the You Tube based Isle of Man TV, which no-one could think is a legitimate TV service (link here: https://www.youtube.com/c/IsleofManTV).
Viewers of Local and Regional Television on the Isle of Man really should be up in arms about this! When the BBC, in their wisdom, decided that Carlisle and northern Cumbria should be in the BBC North West Region getting Regional news from Manchester in the 1980’s there was outrage- thousands of northern Cumbrians wrote in to the BBC to complain and eventually- after five years of this (with protests from Cumbrian viewers)- the BBC did an about-turn and decided to return northern Cumbria to BBC Look North (NE England), which northern Cumbrians had received until 1986 (I refer to this in another of my recent articles about how People Power can change Regional TV locally- link here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2021/07/11/thirty-years-ago-people-power-changed-regional-tv-in-northern-cumbria-and-it-can-in-northern-lancashire-too/). Now, the situation in northern Cumbria was one whereby folk in Carlisle and northern Cumbria could still switch over to what was then Border Television and watch Lookaround, with it’s very local Cumbrian news and coverage northwards into southern Scotland.
However, the situation for Manx viewers of Regional TV is much worse than it was for northern Cumbrians in the late 1980’s, for there is no local alternative to switch over to: From both BBC North West Tonight and for ITV Granada Reports the main news- output is about happenings from further away (and greater travel time away) than most of BBC North West Tonight’s coverage was for northern Cumbrian viewers in the late 1980’s. Manx viewers of Regional Television should be up in arms- writing letters in their thousands to BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports complaining about being insulted with “Local News” that is from over 120 miles away and in another country. They should be writing to their representative in the House of Keys and to the Manx Government about this completely unacceptable state of affairs, pointing out that the Faeroe Islands (with a population little more than half that of the Isle of Man) have their own TV station!
How have folk living on the Isle of Man, a small country in its own right, come to meekly accept this state of affairs? Where is the groundswell of anger, the Public indignation or the planned trips to Media City, Salford to petition outside the offices of BBC North West and ITV Granada?? Why are not the Members of the House of Keys, in the Tynwald (the Isle of Man Parliament) not campaigning and demanding of the Manx Government to make funds available to set up the Isle of Man’s own TV News station?
In the meantime, if you live on the Isle of Man and are indeed appalled to be getting “Local News” which is 90%- plus about another country you should contact Programmers at BBC North West Tonight (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and ITV Granada Reports (email: email@example.com) to get them to rectify this situation- by providing (at a minimum) a 15 minute opt-out from the Regional News for Isle of Man news. If the replies back are less than satisfactory (i.e. “We can’t afford it!”) then write to the Chief Minister, the Hon. Howard Quayle CBE by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to the Chief Minister at the following address:
Chief Minister of the Isle of Man
Chief Minister Hon Howard Quayle CBE
Office of the Chief Minister
Isle of Man
If you write a letter to the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man and mark the letter URGENT he is more likely to read it and the communication is less likely to intercepted by one of his Secretaries (as is likely with email). And a letter arriving in his office marked for his attention is indeed likely to get his attention! How much is the cost of a stamp compared with the top of Government on the Isle of Man being conveyed the urgency for the Isle of Man to have its own TV News? Do demand that the Isle of Man get it’s own TV Station and for money to be set aside for that purpose, and explain how upsetting you find it to get “Local News” that’s 90% about North West England. Get your friends and family on the Isle of Man to write to him too. Of course, tax-payer funding of TV News is not something that I would naturally support, but when a small country is without a TV News service at all there needs to be Government support to step in and provide the funds to set it up in collaboration with appropriate local TV expertise. It should then be funded through a combination of advertising, business sponsoring and local lotteries raising money to keep it going so that the new Manx TV service is not pressurised in to doing the bidding of whichever political party is in power.
And whatever you do, switch off BBC North West and ITV Granada and go to the Internet- and You-tube based Isle of Man TV to get your news. Maybe when BBC North West and ITV Granada stop getting viewers tuning in from the Isle of Man (and lose money in the process)- and discover Manx viewers clamouring for their own TV Station- they will realise that something is wrong- and they will take some big steps to rectify it!