8th January 2022
A question: What do small towns and villages like Garstang, Bilsborrow and Waddington in Lancashire have in common with Gretna, Moffat and Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland? At first glance, probably not much as the former are in North West England and the latter are over the Scottish Border in south-west Scotland over eighty five miles to the North. If we then ask what Garstang, Bilsborrow and Waddington have in common with Manchester, Liverpool or Salford, the first instinct would be to say that they are all in North West England within 55 miles of each other. It’s a no-brainer, one might say that the small Lancashire towns and villages are in the same TV Region as Manchester, Liverpool and Salford.
However, each of these three small towns in mid northern Lancashire, surrouned as they are by farmland and countryside- each of which are not more than 15 miles from North Lancashire’s Bowland Fells actually have much less in common with Manchester, Liverpool and Salford, which are big cities where communities have metropolitan urban concerns. The small Lancashire towns and villages have much more in common with Gretna, Moffat and Langholm in south-west Scotland, all in a rural setting surrounded by farmland and with the Scottish Southern Uplands not far away to the north and the lovely Ettrick Forest Park nearby to all three. The day-to-day issues pertaining to people who live in these south-west Scottish small towns will not, therefore, be so different to the issues pertaining to folk living in the northern Lancashire small towns and surrounding rural areas except the climate will be a fraction of a degree Celsius warmer because they are eighty to ninety miles to the South. The day-to-day issues concerning folk living in central Manchester, Salford or Liverpool will be very different- urban congestion, nightlife, urban crime, professions commuting to office blocks, multicultural issues, and so forth (and almost one degree Celsius warmer again due to the urban heat-island effect!).
But would it not be stupid to put any part of Lancashire in an ITV1 Region that produces news about places 100 miles away? That is something that most North Lancastrians might think. You might also ask, why do we want to hear news about another country in our local news? But actually, the proposition of putting northern Lancashire, which is mainly rural in the ITV1 Border Region is quite sensible for two reasons: Much of the news would not only be local: Cumbria accounts for at least 50% of the news-coverage in ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround programme and much of Cumbria is quicker to get to from northern Lancashire than are Greater Manchester and Liverpool; northern Lancashire itself would get more coverage in an ITV1 Region with just 1.5 million inhabitants (after northern Lancashire joins) as opposed to ITV1 Granada with seven million inhabitants in the transmission area. Secondly, the news-coverage in the large rural ITV1 Border transmission area will concern issues that are more relevant to rural northern Lancashire than are ever likely to be covered in metropolitan-dominated ITV1 Granada Reports. How are issues like Black Lives Matter, Muslim settlement issues in Manchester or urban crime relevant to a farmer living beneath the Bowland fells near the head-waters of the River Wyre? Or how are these urban issues relevant to a fisherman from Fleetwood making a living in Morecambe Bay? Now which Regional News- service will more likely inform them of stormy waters in the northern Irish Sea or bad weather affecting lambing in the uplands?
It’s also not as if though ITV1 Granada Reports fails to provide news that is largely irrelevant to communities in northern Lancashire on the grounds of geographical distance either. The Wirral, most of Cheshire, southernmost Greater Manchester and the Peak District are all both over 50 miles and over an hour’s travel time from Garstang, Bilsborrow and Waddington too. The ease of travelling north along the less- congested M6 north of Preston means that places like Gretna, just over the Scottish Border are actually slightly quicker to get to from Garstang than Chester or Buxton.
And ITV1 Granada Reports also- occasionally- produces “foreign” news in their coverage of the Isle of Man. And Douglas, on the Isle of Man takes over four hours to travel to from Garstang- whereas it takes just three hours and 23 minutes to travel the 182 miles from Garstang to Stranraer (the furthest news likely to be covered in ITV1 News Border). Of course, the good viewers of Regional Television on the Isle of Man also suffer the fact that 95% of the coverage- about North West England (mostly Manchester and Liverpool) is completely irrelevant to their day-to-day lives.
All things considered, especially given that the Eden Valley and South Lakes in Cumbria are within an hour’s drive of the afformentioned Lancashire small towns and villages, it is almost certain that if that part of Lancashire north of Preston were transferred from the ITV1 Granada Region to the ITV1 Border Region they would enjoy a more topically-relevant, as well as a more geographic-appropriate Local and Regional News service. Viewers in Lancashire would still have the option of watching BBC1 North West Tonight which will provide coverage of North West England (except much North of Preston), and that will include coverage of Manchester and Merseyside. But it is certain that if folk live somewhere like Garstang, or near Clitheroe they would appreciate a real choice in terms of the geographic coverage and topical slant of the “North West News” they choose to watch.
However, as things stand, the two main Regional News services that most folk can get on their televisions if they live in Fleetwood, Scorton, Garstang, Chipping, Dunsop Bridge or Barnoldswick- that whole swathe across central northern Lancashire from west to east- are the two mainstream news-services that mainly cover happenings well to the south of them in the big cities an hour’s drive away. BBC1 North West Tonight does, to be fair, cover Lancashire fairly well but even with BBC1 North West Tonight there are times coverage fails to get North of Preston at all! And if viewers in that large rural belt across central northern Lancashire wish to know what is happening just to the north of them, in Cumbria, they may sometimes get this off BBC1 North West Tonight but there are several times in the year when both ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight seem to have a complete moratorium on even mentioning Cumbria for a week or more!
The current choices of Regional News for viewers in rural northern Lancashire are not satisfactory for the needs of folk living in local communities there- particularly the more rural areas. But even the larger towns of Morecambe, Heysham and Blackpool, plus the City of Lancaster would benefit from being transferred in to the much lower population ITV1 Region that also serves Cumbria- to which northern Lancashire has closer affinity to than to Manchester and Liverpool.
If you think that your local area of northern Lancashire would benefit more from being in the ITV1 Border Region, not in the ITV1 Granada Region write to ITV1 News Border at: firstname.lastname@example.org.