7th December 2021
Happily, BBC1 North West Tonight has been covering Cumbria rather better of late. South Cumbrian viewers of the programme have been treated to extensive coverage of power- cuts across South Cumbria last week. Unfortunately, a number of viewers who were suffering from these power cuts could not watch BBC1 North West Tonight, or indeed any other television programme without that vital ingredient of electricity to power their televisions- and they could not go online to get the news either: Neither computers nor the Internet function without electricity either! One hopes that most rural folk would at least have batteries- and a radio- so that they could tune in to BBC Radio Cumbria at such times: If not local folk might decide to buy one so that they can keep abreast of what is happening locally- and further afield too! Either that, or local residents could find BBC Radio Cumbria on their car radios instead: Radio is not television news- with a nice colour picture showing you where news is happening- but it is certainly better than nothing at all.
But credit where it is due, BBC North West Tonight have recently devoted more air-time to Cumbria (even if it has taken mass power-cuts and storm damage in the county to achieve this). This comes on to the subject of the evening of Tuesday 7th December 2021, when BBC North West Tonight covered:
- Storm- damage in the Lake District, with Keswick (just north of the transmission area), a railway line just outside Kendal and Ambleside featuring. The news covered the effects of fallen trees following Storm Arwen.
- Stormy seas on the coast at Blackpool.
- Stormy conditions on the Isle of Man, where a number of properties have been damaged, with coastal flooding around Douglas.
- There was coverage of Barrow in Furness, where there was a display of old pictures of the area from the 1940’s.
- The weather forecast featured a 71-mph wind-gust from St. Bees Head, west Cumbria and a picture of snow-covered fells taken from near Bampton, a village just south of Penrith. Stormy seas at Blackpool again featured.
Some forty percent of the programme was devoted to coverage of Cumbria, the Isle of Man, and the Blackpool area- and if one includes BBC1 North West Tonight covering Preston North End (football club) almost half the programme concerned Cumbria, Lancashire, and the Isle of Man on the evening of 7th December 2021. In view of the large geographical area (and proportion of North West England) that Lancashire and Cumbria cover this is quite appropriate, even if these counties have just under 30% of the population of all of North West England: The population of Lancashire and South Cumbria make up 25% of the population of the BBC North West transmission area, in terms of geographical area it is about 60%.
Thus 40% coverage of Lancashire and South Cumbria is measured and appropriate. The Isle of Man is its own jurisdiction, separated from North West England by the Irish Sea and covering an area the size of Greater Manchester- it too should get decent coverage, 10% of total coverage would be a bare minimum, but it is a wonder that the Isle of Man does not have an opt-out (as do the Channel Islands have from BBC South West), as the Isle of Man is a small nation in its own right in the Irish Sea!
There would be those that complain that this is too much coverage for a low- population part of North West England plus Isle of Man, even if it is one that covers a large geographical area. However, viewers in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire still got coverage of their counties and at least 50% of coverage between them should they choose to watch BBC1 North West Tonight. Moreover, if those viewers in the urban south of North West England find that is not enough, they would still have ITV1 Granada Reports that virtually never fails to devote at least 70% coverage to Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire (it hasn’t failed to deliver that over recent days).
However, if BBC North West Tonight just ape ITV1 Granada Reports in areal coverage, it is viewers in Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man who lose out: Just where are South Cumbrian, Manx and North Lancastrian viewers to turn for good coverage? As I have covered in other posts, many South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians cannot get ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround on their televisions. Lancastrians consider that ITV1 News Border mainly covers southern Scotland and would be even less relevant locally, which is not actually true because ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround has 50% coverage of Cumbria- often more. But local viewers don’t know that and are unaware of other local news outlets like That’s TV Lancashire or Lancs Live, which often has lots of local news clips.
It is only fair that at least one of the two mainstream Regional TV News services for North West England provide a decent degree of geographic-appropriate coverage for viewers who happen to live north of Preston or on the Isle of Man. And BBC1 North West Tonight is better-placed than ITV1 Granada Reports to cover the northern North West and the Isle of Man better, not least because BBC North West’s transmission area extends some 20 miles further north than ITV1 Granada’s and the programme has to satisfy an additional 100,000 Cumbrian viewers (for whom the alternative choice is ITV1 News Border- which covers Cumbria extremely well).
Secondly, the BBC is less directly impacted financially by viewer figures for Regional news- which the BBC Charter stipulates must be provided for all parts of the country. So BBC1 North West Tonight can afford- to some extent to cover the most populous areas of the North West a little bit less in order to cover the northern North West of England- and the Isle of Man- better. ITV1 Granada Reports cannot afford to disappoint 75% of its viewers (who live in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire) to please the other 25% (who live in Lancashire, South Cumbria, and the Isle of Man) because ITV1 would lose advertising revenue: At least that’s what ITV1 Granada Reports Programmers think, but they would sharp wake up if they lost most viewers from north of Preston should these viewers find more local alternatives!
It helps that, for BBC1 North West Tonight the programme is- with potentially 100,000 Cumbrian viewers actually in competition with ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround: However, if the remaining South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians (who are by default in the ITV1 Granada Region) discover that ITV1 News Border covers Cumbria extremely well- that would put additional pressure on BBC1 North West to serve their Cumbrian and North Lancastrian viewers better. The BBC Charter also puts a legal obligation on BBC1 North West Tonight programmers to cover all parts of their transmission area- including South Cumbria, North Lancashire, and the Isle of Man. This Website will, of course, also educate South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians as to what ITV1 News Border actually covers in its bulletins- most of it is about Cumbria, typically just under 50% is Scottish coverage (with the odd bit of news about northern Northumberland). If viewers in northern North West England want to know what is happening locally just to the north of their community, then ITV1 News Border is their go-to Regional News service (which these viewers may have to watch from the ITV1 News Border website if they cannot get ITV1 News Border on their televisions). The Isle of Man does not have a dedicated local TV News service (it gets programming from BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada Reports), but Manx viewers may not be aware of the You Tube based Isle of Man TV, which just covers the Isle of Man- a computer with Internet will, however, be a requirement to watch it.
It is to be hoped that the current pressures on the BBC in the North West of England, plus viewers living in the parts of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire (in the ITV1 Granada transmission area) discovering the joys of ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround (of which this Website will play a vital role)- will lead to a permanent increase in BBC1 North West Tonight’s news-coverage of Lancashire, Cumbria, and the Isle of Man so that there is 40 to 50% coverage (as on 7th December 2021) every night of the week. Lancashire and Cumbria comprise almost 70% of the geographical area of North West England- which programmers need to know stretches up to the Scottish Border- it is fitting that these areas- with the Isle of Man- get 40 to 50% coverage on at least one of the two main North West Regional TV News- services.
This is entirely possible if ITV1 Granada and BBC1 North West collaborate on their programming, with ITV1 Granada majoring on Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire whilst BBC1 North West commit to better coverage of geographical North West of England and the Isle of Man: The North West Region stretches north of the BBC1 North West transmission area right up to Carlisle and the Scottish Border. It does not matter that North Cumbrians don’t watch BBC1 North West Tonight, North Cumbria is still part of the English North West and a Regional News- programme advertising as covering all of North West England should cover happenings there (as BBC1 North West Tonight covered fallen trees in Keswick this evening). Folk living in South Cumbria (some of whom cannot get ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround) still want to know what is happening in the north of their own county, and they should be able to obtain such coverage from at least one readily-accessible Regional TV News- provider.
Hopefully, the greater choice, the ability of folk to find localised news- sources online and to watch another BBC1 or ITV1 Regional News via the Internet creates an environment where Regional TV News Producers feel constantly under pressure to make sure they please all their viewers with plenty of news that is relevant to all parts of their transmission areas. If it means splitting some larger BBC or ITV Regions, or providing opt-outs to achieve this result, that is something BBC and ITV bosses must consider.