Regional TV in Cumbria and North Lancashire by 2050. A Worst Case Scenario

20th August 2021

This is a Website that campaigns for better and more geographic- appropriate Regional Television for Cumbria and northern Lancashire- as well as for the Isle of Man. However, there is every possibility that what viewers in northern parts of North West England and on the Isle of Man will end up with in the next thirty years is an even worse and less local choice from the BBC and from ITV. For that, if viewers are informed and if communities are informed beforehand they can mobilise to mitigate against some of the possible decisions of Regional News broadcasters- and even to help themselves to get more geographic- appropriate news-coverage against all the odds.

I wish to look at some of the consequences of a worst- case scenario where viewers lose the Regional Television services that just about provide local news-coverage- BBC1 North West Tonight for Lancastrians and ITV News Border and Lookaround for Cumbrians and North Lancastrians that can get it (ITV Border covers Cumbria very well, which is more than “just about” local). However, in this worst- case scenario- as a consequence of Recessions and consequent Austerity brought about by spiralling Government Debt and Inflation- and very expensive commitments to Net Zero and De-carbonising Britain to tackle Global Warming (of which- by the way- I am not personally convinced is so all-round scary as to justify hobbling the UK Economy to the tune of over £1 Trillion), both the BBC and ITV.Plc have to make further serious economies. At the same time, due to rising opposition from the cash-strapped Public and from politicians the TV Licence Fee is scrapped and the BBC- for the first time in its existence- has to rely on prescriptions, advertising and other forms of private funding.

In this worst- case scenario the BBC discovers it cannot afford to offer so many Regional TV services (as well as other programming) whilst a very market- led Conservative Government allows ITV.Plc to drop Regional Television altogether so it can remain solvent in the face of falling advertising revenues. That same Government allows the BBC to mothball and amalgamate some of its BBC Regions to survive without TV Licence funding. So by the Year 2050 only the BBC provides Regional News and the TV Regions are reduced to just nine covering all of the UK- and the Regional News programmes are just 15 minutes a night- with just five-minute Regional bulletins at lunchtime and on Saturday evenings. BBC Local radio also disappears- to be replaced by BBC Radio for each of the Nine British Regions- as follows:

  1. Scotland
  2. Northern Ireland
  3. North West England, North Wales and Isle of Man
  4. Large Northern England Region including northern Cumbria, NE England, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
  5. Central England (both East and West Midlands)
  6. South West England, South Wales and Channel Islands
  7. Eastern England including East Anglia, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Bedfordshire
  8. London
  9. South East England- from Kent to Hampshire up to Oxfordshire.

For Lancashire, the Isle of Man and south Cumbria they will be getting a Regional News service rather worse than ITV Granada Reports today- and nothing like BBC North West Tonight. The fact that all of North Wales would be included in the area coverage means that the new BBC North West Tonight of 2050 will only have about 10% of coverage coming north of Preston- and with the main bulletins being just 15 minutes long (enough for five news items- plus Sport and Weather) it is certain that South Cumbria and the Isle of Man (if indeed the Manx Government allowed the small country they rule to be subject to such indignity) would go weeks at a time without news-coverage.

If northern Cumbrians chose to remain with the expanded Regional News service covering Yorkshire and Lincolnshire as well as North East England and northern Cumbria they would be served terribly by BBC Look North in 2050 (much worse than BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria today)). There would be no ITV Border to switch over to after ITV.Plc stop doing Regional TV and the BBC Look North of 2050 will typically have three news-items about Yorkshire (typically West or South Yorkshire), one of Lincolnshire/ East Yorkshire and a fifth news-item about North East England- and Cumbria would get no coverage on most nights! Viewers in Carlisle and northern Cumbria would be insulted by being told by the BBC “Now for The News Where You Are”- followed by news about Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Sunderland- and it would be a horrible change from having ITV News Border and Lookaround! If, as is indeed possible, all of Cumbria is put in the BBC North West and North Wales Region that would marginally increase the chance of over 500,000 Cumbrians together getting news about Cumbria- but it would be doubly awful for viewers in North and West Cumbria to get news mainly about Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire- and half of Wales dominating their TV screens! Perhaps North Cumbrians could campaign to get the Scottish Regional News instead- this maximising the chance of the “Local News” getting within 100 miles of their homes!

One hopes that the fierce resistance of Cumbrians and southern Scots to losing ITV Border Lookaround – and resistance of other areas of Britain threatened with a big loss of Regional Television- as soon as ITV.Plc and the BBC even mooted their plans- would kill off such plans to axe valuable Local and Regional TV News services stone- dead. However, even if the worst should happen there should, by 2050, be a greater range of online and digital TV services that provide more localised News, of which outlets such as That’s TV Cumbria are an early sign. Enough Cumbrians, affected by the loss of ITV News Border Lookaround might club together to set up a Cumbria Community TV service paid for by local viewers- and others a little further afield who might like to watch it. Hopefully, the Manx Government would also be spurred into action to make funds available for a bespoke Manx Television service- providing coverage of the Isle of Man only. Communities in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire might also club together to provide a more localised North West TV that covers Lancashire and Cumbria- nowhere else.

Should large numbers of viewers across the northern half of North West England and on the Isle of Man suffer a loss of more tailored geographic- appropriate Regional News coverage in this way, one hopes that there would still be recourse to complain to one’s MP and to demand that the BBC provide more geographic- appropriate coverage. One would be justified in complaining too, were that to happen: If Regional TV is just a smaller version of the National News- in which over 90% of the news is not local- just what is its purpose? If the BBC do ever decide to have just nine TV Regions covering all of Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands they may as well just abolish Regional Television altogether because the content would not be local to most viewers the length and breadth of the country!

One would still be able to put pressure on the BBC to provide an opt-out for Cumbria and northern Lancashire, or to reserve at least one of the five news-items to be about Cumbria/northern Lancashire, by promising to switch over to whatever Digital or Online Local TV alternatives there may be by 2050, but even if not pressure from angered MPs whose constituents complain about Regional TV should be enough to stop the new BBC North West and North Wales ignoring viewers north of Preston. If Scottish Television (STV) still does Regional TV, North Cumbrians could lobby to be able to get Regional TV for southern Scotland and to be included in that STV Region- which would become a kind of reincarnation of ITV News Border if STV acceded to such demands! Hopefully, there will be Digital/ Online Local News options by 2050- born out of the loss of the ITV Regions and some BBC Regions- that will provide more localised geographic- appropriate news for Cumbria and northern Lancashire by then: The progress of technology, more TV channels and more online/ You-tube like TV services means that will be more likely.

By 2050, there will be very few people still alive that won’t have a Computer- or don’t know how to use a Computer in order to watch something over the Internet, so if the BBC is the only provider of TV Regional News by then they are likely to lose an awful lot of viewers to Internet-based competition if they just have nine super-regions covering all of Britain, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands! One hopes that in 2050 the Isle of Man will have its own Manx Television service, so that viewers there are not forced to rely on the BBC for local news-coverage.

Suffice to say, in conclusion, but if there is any hint that ITV.Plc will bring about the loss of ITV News Border (either by re- amalgamating it with ITV Tyne Tees or proposing to axe ITV1 Regional News altogether), this Website will mobilise fully against it. I would encourage all Cumbrians to write to their MPs and to OFCOM to object most forcefully against such plans!

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.

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