Better Coverage of northern North West England on North West Tonight

9th August 2021

The return of Roger Johnson, the main News- anchor on BBC North West Tonight from his holidays- plus the end of the Tokyo Olympics (2020) has brought a revival in the extent of coverage north of the M62 Corridor: Barnoldswick in north-east Lancashire and Blackpool were covered, the plight of a young lady from Lancashire recovering from a brain-tumour received extensive sympathetic coverage and- after a significant gap- Cumbria is getting covered again: The plight of the UK’s first proposed open- cast coal mine to be built near Whitehaven in West Cumbria was covered- and it is worth noting that Whitehaven is some 15 miles north of the BBC North West transmission boundary. There was also a news- feature about the Isle of Man.


It does appear that Roger Johnson stamps his mark on BBC North West Tonight, as does Owain Wyn Evans, the charismatic weather- presenter. He does display a real awareness of what viewers across the North West expect from their regional news- service and it is telling that his return has marked an increase in coverage north of the M62 (almost half the programme this evening). The end of the Olympics has helped, too as that has freed up air- time to cover geographic North West England better. And although just one night, the improvement in all-round coverage in Lancashire is palpable.

However, one has to look at Regional News programming over the long-term. One can say that, on balance BBC North West Tonight covers Lancashire reasonably well, there are typically two to three news-items about the county on most of the evening bulletins. However, north of Preston in particular there are strong links with Cumbria and the Lake District and BBC North West’s coverage of Cumbria is patchy over time. There will be weeks when there is something about Cumbria (often two news-items) every night- but then, usually during holidays or with major sports events like the Olympics or the European Cup demanding coverage there is a prolonged drought in coverage north of Preston.

For these reasons I cannot in sincerity recommend Cumbrian viewers of Regional Television just watch BBC North West Tonight even though for all of South Cumbria and as far up the Cumbrian coast as far as Ravenglass BBC North West is the default BBC Region. There is a perfectly good local and Regional News- service that always covers Cumbria- including South Cumbria- very well and which typically has 50% coverage of the county: It’s called ITV Border Lookaround. Why would viewers there want to watch the news- service that only covers Cumbria sparingly- and intermittently- instead?

Now South Cumbrians would want a North West Regional News- service and there are cross- border links with Lancashire (mainly northern Lancashire, to be fair). However, for Local and Regional news the order of priority for these South Cumbrian viewers is Local first, the County second and Regional third. Moreover, producers at BBC North West are not going to improve their coverage of Cumbria unless they feel pressure from these viewers writing in and complaining about the lack of coverage of their area and places nearby, with those viewers threatening to switch channels to a more geographic- appropriate alternative if their viewing needs are not met. That is market forces- and a bit of competition to the North will stop Programme-producers at BBC North West and indeed ITV Granada taking their most northern customers and viewers for granted.

Published by northwestisnorthwest

My name is Ian Pennell and I am a freelance Book-keeper: I live near Alston, in the North Pennines in north-east Cumbria. I have friends who live in northern North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 17 years ago) and in other parts of Cumbria. I have two Website Campaigns that seek to promote more localised Regional TV coverage for large rural areas across the North of North West England and North East England. . 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! When I was studying at Lancaster University, I used to watch BBC1 North West Tonight because it covered areas up around where I was brought up- in northern Cumbria as well as more immediately locally around Lancaster. Then I came home one day, turned on BBC1 North West Tonight wondering why they were silent on Cumbria and discovered why: Most of Cumbria had been chopped off the weather-map! . 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! In rural and northern Northumberland too, Regional TV, as is received by viewers, tends too often to be Tyneside/ Wearside/ Teesside- focussed with little news locally. Communities in North Northumberland have strong links across the Border into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh but none of the Regional TV News- services serving Northumberland today ever goes across the Scottish Border for significant happenings of interest to North Northumbrians. I have also done walking in the area, including around the Cheviots in the past- and the Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ East and Mid Lothian area is vast- but it is largely overlooked by mainstream Regional TV! . North Yorkshire, the largest county in England also falls in the gaps between coverage from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees in the north of the county, and the Leeds-based BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV- services in the south of the county: North Yorkshire is a huge, yet beautiful county, which I have visited and explored in the past, yet is poorly covered in Regional TV. . Based near Alston, near the Cumbria/ Northumberland boundary I am well-placed to discuss Regional TV in all these large rural areas, in which collectively some two million folk live, yet they are poorly covered by the Regional TV News- services set up to serve them. These huge areas are an hour to two hours' drive from where I live: North Lancashire and South/ West Cumbria are to the south-west, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and Lothian are to the north and north-east, and North Yorkshire is to the south-east of my home near Alston. I am well-placed to draw attention to deficiencies in Regional TV coverage for folk in all these areas. The North Pennines, where I live, is arguably another large area that touches on the other three where Regional TV coverage falls through the gaps completely (and that is despite the North Pennines running north to south down the middle of the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria Region). . In two websites, one for northern North West England and the Isle of Man (a country in it's own right that does not have it's own TV service!), and another Website focussing on Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the North Pennines I make the point that Regional TV that informs viewers of important things in their local area is a Public Service, funding for which should be given a higher priority (and if necessary via statute through the BBC's Charter), than funding for Soaps, Films or Sport- which are for leisure. I also give viewers the tools to fight effectively for better- and more geographic-appropriate Regional TV where they live- and to seek it through alternative (often little-known) local TV services, some of which may only be available on the Internet.

5 thoughts on “Better Coverage of northern North West England on North West Tonight

  1. Mmm maybe for Northwest England but not better service for Isle of Man still most / all of gnu sport politics is still not on the BBC not even covered any of the election lots of stuff that can easily make a 30 minute Isle of Man news program or a 15 minute news program still has a lot of stuff that’s not going on in the Isle of Man that everywhere else in the British Isles get off the BBC

  2. I totally agree. Coverage of the Isle of Man remains terrible, with one news- item on a good night and nothing on most nights. That applies to BBC North West Tonight as well as ITV Granada Reports. If you want to get your friends who live locally to write in and tell them this- and do this yourself- then email details are as follows:

    BBC North West Tonight email:
    ITV Granada Reports email:

    Best wishes

    Ian Pennell
    (NorthWest Is NorthWest)

    1. i be work on them last cup months be on mhk and bbc and itv but nothing but not give up keep trying hope get lot people form both side sea help isle of man get a local tv service up running like lot isle of man miss out form bbc and itv lot news and sport and lot big thing not get out on tv

    2. The coverage of the Isle of Man is shocking. Half the island should mobilise and write to BBC North West and complain about getting news about another country- and that being called “local news”. I would certainly support you getting a delegation of Manx viewers to go to Media City, Salford to picket outside the BBC North West and ITV Granada studios for the Isle of Man to get its own TV station. Something like that needs to happen- and soon!

  3. Yes The coverage of the Isle of Man is shocking am working on get people email to bbc and itv also on old and MHK also on all running in election so yes some like that needs happen work try get gurp maybe one day sand some of to Manchester protest hope get sort only start like cup months so take some time get all sort

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