7th September 2021
It is vital that viewers of Regional Television get a news-service that is not just local, but which also covers the most relevant and geographic- appropriate wider Regional News for their communities. To that end the average geographic location of most of the content and the proportion of coverage that is really local, that is Immediate Local and Regionally Local to the community in question is of prime importance. This Website campaigns for improved Regional Television that is more geographic- appropriate for viewers in Lancashire, Cumbria, and the Isle of Man, and one of the ways Regional Television News producers are going to improve the service they offer is if they feel there is a risk of some of their viewers looking elsewhere for the most geographic- appropriate local and Regional TV news-coverage.
In a previous article I illustrated the concept of a Localness Onion (you can find the article here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2020/07/19/introducing-the-localness-onion-immediate-local-and-regionally-local-and-its-relevance-to-regional-news/ ). In this article I wish to apply this principle for viewers who live in Lancaster, roughly at the centre of the geographical area of North West England where viewers get a poor choice of Regional coverage from both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports, although BBC1 North West Tonight does cover northern Lancashire and South Cumbria a little better although even that is far from ideal at times.
The map below shows the Localness Onion super-imposed upon a map of northern England with areas local as relevant to Lancaster: Areas marked out as Immediate Local are in yellow shading and areas that could be considered Regional Local marked out in blue shading. Immediate Local is anything within 25 miles or 30 minutes’ travel time- whichever is the greater distance whilst Regionally Local is anything outside that, but which is within 50 miles or one hour’s travel time- whichever is the greater distance. Beyond that is National Not Local where folk may still travel to such areas- even on occasional day trips for business folk travelling to conferences, football fans travelling to away football matches: However, such areas over 50 miles away and over an hour’s travel time away are not really more significant to folk living in a specific area than places at the other end of the country.
It is worth noting from the map above that the Localness Onion in relation to Lancaster is more egg- shaped. That is because the M6 and West Coast Main Line- which passed by and through Lancaster respectively makes travel north to south easier and faster than travel east to west: Close to England’s coast with the Irish Sea just to the west means that travel westwards is very limited, this the shallow extent of the areas Immediate and Regionally Local to the west- travel over the sea is not practical for most folk! Thus, both Carlisle to the north and Warrington to the south are Regionally Local to Lancaster, whereas Harrogate in North Yorkshire- a similar distance to the east (and just over fifty miles away) is not and the outer extent of what is Regionally Local is less than 50 miles west of Lancaster since it is out at sea!
On closer inspection, one can see that the Localness Onion- which is egg-shaped- is more pointed towards the north (and slightly westwards) and slightly flatter on the southern base. This reflects the fact that travelling south from Lancaster is slightly slower than travelling north. This is because there tend to be more train stops- and it being necessary to change trains at Preston (often onto slower trains) to reach places like Liverpool, Manchester, and Stockport whilst the M6 is (usually) more congested if one drives south of Preston. On the other hand, travelling north from Lancaster to Carlisle or Penrith one encounters less traffic (except during Bank Holidays when many folks from North West England- and even beyond- drive to the Lake District) whilst trains from Lancaster to Carlisle are high-speed, direct, and often with just one stop in between.
This all has a bearing on Regional Television, as received by a particular community- and we wish to consider this in relation to Lancaster to help illustrate the relevance of Regional Television and whether there are other Regional Television News services which may well by itself- or in tandem with one of the mainstream North West Regional News services- provide a better service. Let us look at two main facets of specific Regional Television News- services (ITV, BBC or other) and consider the proportion of Regional news coverage that is likely to be Immediate or Regionally Local- and also the average geographical position of all news-coverage over a long period of time.
Thus, we now see our map of Northern England with coverage by Regional TV News services that can be picked up in Lancaster-with the average positions of coverage and the degree of local news-coverage (areas with typically three news-items nightly within 1,000 square miles is heavily coloured, less than one is just dots whilst areas with typically one or two news-items within a 1,000 square-mile area is striped). This is super-imposed on the Localness Onion for Lancaster (more like a slightly lopsided Localness Egg!), so one can gauge fairly well how well the local and surrounding areas relevant to Lancaster- and the extent of areas within the Localness Onion that are covered by different Regional Television news- services. Just below the coverage areas of ITV1 Granada Reports and ITV News Border Lookaround are super-imposed on the Localness Onion for Lancaster:
And below we have the super-imposition of BBC North West Tonight and BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) superimposed on the Lancaster Localness Onion with stippling and shading as per the above map:
When we come to compare the amount of Regional News coverage from each of the Regional Television News services it is very clear how the coverage from both main North West England Regional Television News- services is skewed well south of Lancaster and also how little of the locations with at least three news items a night in a 1,000 square-mile area overlaps with the Immediate Local area to Lancaster. Infact, with regards ITV1 Granada Reports none of the well-covered areas are Immediate Local to Lancaster. Also, looking at the coverage of areas by ITV1 News Border, with its flagship Regional News programme Lookaround and by ITV1 Granada Reports more of the moderately covered areas (that is with typically one or two news items a night within a 1,000 square-mile area) with ITV1 News Border are Immediate Local to Lancaster (that is, within 25 miles or 30 minutes’ travel-time- whichever is the greater distance) than that of the extent of moderately covered areas by ITV1 Granada Reports.
When looking at the areas that are Regionally Local to Lancaster, that is within 50 miles or up to an hour’s travel time away- whichever is the greater distance- there are similar surprising findings. This incorporates areas that are heavily covered by ITV1 Granada Reports (but by no means all of them) and also areas that are heavily covered by ITV1 News Border Lookaround. The extent of heavy coverage overlapping the Regionally Local areas to Lancaster is marginally greater with ITV1 News Border Lookaround compared to ITV1 Granada Reports. What is Regionally Local should not make up most news-coverage in an ideal world, but for significant happenings or folk travelling on days out it is still important. These findings suggest that for North Lancastrian viewers, the news- coverage from ITV News Border is perhaps more Regionally significant than from ITV1 Granada.
Turning to the BBC Regional coverage maps, BBC1 North West Tonight, which covers Lancashire well- extends the areas with at least three news-items within 1,000 square-miles in the main news-bulletins as far north as Blackpool and the Ribble Valley. A significant area of strong coverage comes within the Immediate Local part of the Lancaster Localness Onion (which is actually more egg-shaped). A greater extent of Regionally Local areas is also covered by BBC1 North West Tonight than by ITV1 Granada Reports. The area of moderately good coverage with BBC1 North West Tonight extends across most of the remaining area Immediate Local to Lancaster and as far north as Kendal. However, what is also surprising is how much the areas covered by BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) come into the areas that are Regional and Immediate Local to Lancaster. Much of northern Cumbria is moderately- well covered and it includes places like Carlisle, Penrith and Keswick which can (just) be reached within an hour from Lancaster. BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) also covers South Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, albeit poorly; South Cumbria is Immediate Local whilst much of the Yorkshire Dales is Regionally Local to (and north-east of) Lancaster. Although mainly focussed on urban North East England, a significant number of news-items on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) are therefore likely to be of interest to viewers living in North Lancashire: Note the extent of the blue dots denoting light areal coverage by BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) which extend right across South Cumbria and across most of the Yorkshire Dales as far south-west as Grassington, near Skipton (i.e., well within an hour’s drive of Lancaster).
Consideration of the mean geographic location of all the news- coverage in each of the Regional News services also has a bearing on the relevance of much of the news-coverage to an area. The locations are denoted by a cross on the Regional News-coverage maps superimposed on the Lancaster Localness Onion. The mean location of all news- coverage averaged over a long period of time for each of these Regional Television News- services is as follows:
- For ITV1 Granada Reports the mean geographical position of the items news- coverage over a long period of time centres on a point just a few miles north-east of Warrington. Most of the coverage does in fact concern Greater Manchester but the position is skewed by the odd news item about the Isle of Man which is a long way west as well as further north. Heavily coverage of Merseyside and frequent coverage of Cheshire pull the mean news- position towards the south-west and there is not enough coverage of Lancashire and South Cumbria to pull the mean position of the news northwards. Warrington is 56 miles south of Lancaster, it takes one hour and seven minutes to drive down the M6 from Lancaster to Warrington on average but on the train it takes just 45 minutes.
- For BBC1 North West Tonight the mean geographical position of the items of news-coverage over a long period of time is almost in the middle of Wigan, which is actually about ten miles further north than the mean geographical location of the news-coverage as for ITV1 Granada Reports. At one level this might be quite surprising, but that is because BBC1 North West Tonight covers Lancashire more than ITV1 Granada Reports and they also cover Cumbria more regularly (and cover areas further north) than ITV1 Granada Reports does. This of course pulls the mean position of the news-coverage further north, so it is clearly north of the M62 Corridor. The distance from Lancaster to Wigan is 37 miles, it takes just over 42 minutes to drive down the M6 from Lancaster to Wigan and the journey takes just 38 minutes on the train. Certainly, BBC1 North West Tonight provides a rather more localised and geographic- appropriate Regional News service for Lancashire and South Cumbria than ITV1 Granada Reports, but it is a long way from the Cumbria-Lancashire focussed coverage that would make it the best for viewers in northern Lancashire.
- For ITV1 News Border Lookaround the mean geographical position of all items of news-coverage averaged over time is close to the village of Bowness-on-Solway, which is about 14 miles west-north-west of Carlisle and right on the Solway Firth. It is only just outside the area that is Regionally Local to Lancaster- Bowness on Solway is 80 miles from Lancaster. If one gets a train from Lancaster to Carlisle, then a taxi from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway the journey time is 52 minutes Lancaster to Carlisle, then 20 minutes from Carlisle station to Bowness on Solway. Assuming a five-minute wait for a taxi the journey would take just over one hour and 15 minutes. This is expected for a Regional News-service that covers Cumbria some 50 to 55% on average, with the remainder of coverage concerning southern Scotland (i.e., Dumfries and Galloway, southern Ayrshire and the Scottish Borders) and a bit of Northumberland: Surprisingly, this does not skew the overall news-coverage north of the Scottish Border because the centre of gravity of the southern Scottish news is just west of Dumfries (about 35 miles north-west of Carlisle) and there is slightly more Cumbrian news- with the centre of gravity of the Cumbrian news being just a few miles north of Keswick. Towns like Stranraer, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown- on the southern Galloway Coast of south-west Scotland- and with a significant proportion of the population living in those parts of southern Scotland covered by ITV1 News Border Lookaround are actually further south than Carlisle.
- Although the centre of news- gravity with ITV1 News Border Lookaround is just outside the orbit of areas that are Regionally Local to Lancaster, and despite some 40 to 45% of the coverage being about southern Scotland (where the rural communities have many similar issues to rural northern Lancashire) one can see that over 15% of this geographic area that is Regionally Local is covered by communities very-well-covered by ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround, that is with three or more news-items within 1,000 square-miles in the main weeknight news-bulletins. This is more than similar excellent areal coverage by ITV1 Granada Reports of areas that are Regionally Local (but to the south) of Lancaster.
- Clearly, Consett, at the eastern edge of the North Pennines cannot- in any way- be considered even Regionally Local to Lancaster and it would suggest that some 90% of the news-coverage on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) is not relevant to viewers in northern Lancashire. Actually, this is not strictly true (the true figure for the proportion of totally non-local news as regards Lancaster from BBC1 Look North is about 75%), because BBC North East/ Cumbria is broadcast to a very large area- and the news-coverage covers an even larger area- and Consett just represents the mean geographical position of all the news-items covered over a long period of time. This is exemplified by the fact that Consett itself is outside the areas covered very well (i.e., three or more news-items in 1,000 square-miles)- they are all to the east across the urban North East of England- that is Tyneside, Teesside, and Wearside. Some of the news-coverage is much further west- and south- across Cumbria and North Yorkshire- and north-west across rural Northumberland (none of these areas are well-covered because these large rural counties do not account for most of the news): However, the Cumbrian and North Yorkshire coverage pulls the mean geographic position of the news- coverage westwards and slightly southwards.
- For BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) the mean geographical position of the items of news-coverage over a long period of time is close to the former industrial town of Consett, in north-west County Durham. This is, of course, well outside the orbit of areas either Immediate or Regionally Local to Lancaster. Infact the town of Consett is 89 miles from Lancaster by road and the typical driving time is one hour and 51 minutes. An illustration of the route from the Rome to Rio website (website here: https://www.rome2rio.com/map/Lancaster-Lancashire-England/Consett#r/Drive/s/0 ) is here:
- It is the westwards and south-westward extents of BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) news-coverage that makes some of the news Regionally Local to Lancaster, and this includes parts of northern Cumbria covered moderately well by this Regional News programme. The most south-western coverage from BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) extends across South Cumbria- much of which is Immediate Local to Lancaster. Up to a quarter of all news-coverage from this Regional News-programme (which serves North East England) is from areas that are Regional or even Immediate Local to Lancaster (i.e., across Cumbria and western North Yorkshire) and what is interesting is that the programme covers some 45% of the entire geographical area of Lancaster’s Localness Onion: By way of for comparison ITV1 Granada Reports manages about 60% of Lancaster’s Localness Onion- that from a Regional TV News-service advertising as “Covering the North West”!
So, what can we conclude from all this as to what the best Regional Television News-services are that are relevant to folk living in Lancaster? A good Regional News service for Lancaster would cover areas locally to the north and east- and well as to the south, so is there a good combination that would be better for North Lancastrians. And given that using the Lancaster Localness Onion is a starting-point for discussion about Regional Television across the wider northern North West of England how might the merits of the different Regional News- services discussed change for places a bit further north- i.e., for Carnforth, or a bit further north-east- i.e., Cantsfield or Hornby in the Lune Valley?
BBC1 North West Tonight provides the better localised news-coverage for Lancaster of all four Regional news-services discussed, both in terms of the mean geographic location of the coverage and the areal extent of the well-covered areas extending into the Regionally Local areas (about 20% of the whole area) and even about 20% of the entire area Immediate Local to Lancaster. In addition, about 60% of the Immediate Local areas- this extends north into South Cumbria- are covered moderately well by BBC1 North West Tonight, that is with one or two news-items in a 1,000 square-mile area. Of course, such “moderately good” coverage with just one or two news-items a night is far from great and the heavy skew of all the highly-covered areas typically well- south of Lancaster means that the programme is often not geographic- appropriate in terms of all-round news-coverage.
The ideal Regional News service for Lancaster would have about 80% coverage within- and spread across- the Immediate Local area in the Localness Onion with 20% spread across the outer Regionally Local area- north as well as south. Of course, BBC1 North West Tonight is more geographic-appropriate for viewers in Lancaster (or indeed anywhere in Lancashire) than ITV1 Granada Reports where heavily covered areas include less areas Regionally Local to Lancaster. Even the moderately covered areas scarcely touch on those Immediate Local to Lancaster. This confirms my advice that viewers who live north of the M62 Corridor would do better watching BBC1 North West Tonight, but clearly, once one gets north of Preston it is clear from the above maps that much of BBC1 North West’s coverage is still skewed well south of those communities.
When we look at ITV1 News Border Lookaround, that Regional News-service has intensive coverage of some 15% of the area Regionally Local to Lancaster- i.e., across Carlisle and northern Cumbria and of those areas Immediate Local to Lancaster ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround covers some 25% of that area “moderately well”, i.e., with one or two news-items within 1,000 square-miles. On both scores, this is significantly better than ITV1 Granada Reports areal coverage of areas Immediate Local and Regionally Local to Lancaster. ITV1 Granada Reports will (often) duplicate coverage of news-items covered by BBC1 North West Tonight, so viewers learn nothing new whereas ITV News Border Lookaround will have 90% news- coverage that is different to BBC1 North West Tonight– and much of the news will be Immediate and Regionally Local to Lancaster- but to the north.
What this means is that for good Regional and Local News for viewers living in Lancaster BBC1 North West Tonight will normally provide a reasonably good coverage of Regional and Local News, but with the major caveat of it being mainly skewed southwards of where one lives and/ or works. ITV1 Granada Reports merely duplicates the news- items and more news- coverage will be irrelevant to North Lancastrians. However, ITV1 News Border Lookaround will complement the BBC1 North West Tonight news-coverage by covering happenings Regionally and Locally but to the north- so that North Lancastrians gain a complete all-round picture of happenings right across North West England- and a higher amount of coverage of happenings in areas within 30 minutes’ travel time.
The only blind-spot this leaves is coverage of happenings locally to the east- across the western Yorkshire Dales. Normally, however, if something major happens around Ingleton or High Bentham- about 15 miles east of Lancaster- this will often still be covered on BBC1 North West Tonight as viewers in that area are (just) within the BBC North West transmission area. If viewers have stronger links with North Yorkshire (perhaps because they work there or like exploring the Yorkshire Dales) then BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) does cover North Yorkshire as well as Cumbria in out-put (though not, as we have seen, a very high proportion of coverage). However, BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV News Border Lookaround (which can be watched from the website- here: https://www.itv.com/news/border) together really provide coverage of all significant happenings from Cheshire up to the Scottish Border (and indeed some way beyond). Some 95% of all areas in Lancaster’s Localness Onion are covered by these two Regional Television News- services:
However, there are cross-border links between Lancaster and the Yorkshire Dales and viewers could complete their receipt of coverage of that last 5% of the Lancaster Localness Onion by supplementing their viewing of BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 News Border Lookaround with North Yorkshire Live (here: https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/all-about/north-yorkshire ) or the That’s TV North Yorkshire web-page (http://www.thats.tv/north-yorkshire/): These will often have up- to- date news about the Yorkshire Dales, though these are either not Regional TV News services or, in the case of That’s TV North Yorkshire it cannot be seen from Lancaster. Viewers living close to the North Lancashire/ North Yorkshire border may find more local coverage from BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) in combination with ITV1 News Calendar (Leeds- Northern version); with both these Regional News programmes coverage of North Yorkshire is likely to concern York, Scarborough, Malton rather than the Yorkshire Dales- and is unlikely therefore to be very relevant! Even in places like Tunstall and Burton in Lonsdale BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 News Border Lookaround will offer the best all-round local-coverage, which can be supplemented best from the That’s TV North Yorkshire website.
In conclusion, however, North Lancastrians should not ever have to be scrabbling around on the Internet or with news- websites to get the best- possible geographic- appropriate Regional and Local News coverage for their area. Viewers in some parts of North Lancashire can get ITV1 News Border Lookaround from their televisions- particularly if they point their aerials north, but this really should not ever be necessary. Timely, informative all- round Local and Regional News-coverage is, in 2021, an essential Public Service and it should be treated as such not only by the BBC and by ITV.Plc, but also by the Government. If North Lancastrians are well- informed about what is happening locally- to the north as well as south- about weather conditions, traffic congestion, felons on the loose, investment into nearby towns, etc. they then can plan, avoid traffic- jams, decide where to go on nice days, etc: Potentially, viewers well-informed by their Regional News service can be warned to keep away from potentially harmful situations- like algae growing in Lake Windermere (as happened this summer). At least 0.1% of GDP should be spent on Regional Television- that’s about £2 billion annually- some five times what the BBC currently spends on Regional Television programming together. For that, five times as many fully- functioning BBC1 Regions could be set up both with the BBC – including in North West England and the Isle of Man: The Isle of Man could have its own Manx TV Region, Cumbria and northern Lancashire could have its own TV Region, northern Greater Manchester, South Lancashire, and Southport could form another TV Region, Liverpool, northern Cheshire and NE Wales forming another TV Region whilst South Cheshire, northern Staffordshire and northern Shropshire could be another TV Region. Everywhere in the North West of England and on the Isle of Man would get news- coverage at least 40% Immediate Local with all areas getting at least three news-items in a 1,000 square-mile area.
As to how this should be funded, the BBC and ITV.Plc should both be allowed to have product-placement and local companies sponsoring Regional News services, local lotteries helping fund local news, and a mix of subscription payment-plans to raise the required sums whilst the Government should permit an increase in the TV License of up to £30 a year (only if the BBC and ITV.Plc clearly cannot raise all the extra funds needed). This TV License increase will cover any shortfall whilst the Government provides some tax cuts to householders to negate the financial blow. Direct funding of tax-payer money is out of the question if we wish to have impartial news not swayed by Government influence on it.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that either the BBC or ITV.Plc are willing to spend more on Regional Television, but they could collaborate so that they are not duplicating coverage- in terms of Regional TV coverage areas- for 90% of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. For instance, in the North West ITV1 Granada Reports could concentrate on providing good all-round local coverage across Manchester, the Liverpool City region, Cheshire and north-east Wales, whilst BBC1 North West Tonight concentrates more on North West England proper- i.e., everywhere west of the Pennines from the M62 Corridor to the Scottish Border- north of Carlisle (even though North Cumbrians don’t get BBC1 North West Tonight, what happens in Carlisle and northern Cumbria is still, as we see from the above maps, Regionally Local to South Cumbria and North Lancashire). BBC1 North West Tonight could also concentrate more on the Isle of Man, (though ideally, the Isle of Man should have its own bespoke Manx news programming- and one hopes that the new Manx government- when elected- finally does something about this). This way, without further expenditure on Regional Television, all parts of North West England can then have access to a more geographic- appropriate news-coverage with at least three news-items a night within a 1,000 square- mile area of their community.
Another suggestion, if neither BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports are willing to do anything in these ways to improve coverage across the northern North West of England is for all of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire to be transferred to the ITV1 News Border region. Again, that depends on ITV1 Granada’s willingness to lose the (albeit neglected) northern part of their transmission area and ITV1 News Border’s understandable reluctance to take on northern Lancashire that they feel would dilute their Cumbrian, North Northumbrian and southern Scottish news-coverage for existing viewers.
In the meantime, you, the Viewers would do well to forward this article and these suggestions to both BBC1 North West Tonight at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and also ITV1 Granada Reports at e-mail: email@example.com. You could also suggest that the North West Regional TV news- services collaborate- in the way suggested so that Viewers in Lancashire and south Cumbria get better all- round local news coverage more appropriate to their communities. Unfortunately, neither the BBC nor ITV.Plc are likely to make any changes without consistent pressure from viewers- so pass this article to your friends who live locally and get them to contact BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada- and forward them the maps of the Lancaster Localness Onion with Regional TV coverage super-imposed to show them why the North West News is not geographic- appropriate for the area.