28th January 2022
Having watched BBC1 North West Tonight this evening, Friday 28th January, it confirms a suspicion that the BBC in North West England are becoming more like ITV1 Granada Reports. There appears to be a new weather- presenter, Simon King, who would appear to have a different slant on where- geographically- responsibilities for the provision of the regional weather- forecast at BBC1 North West Tonight should stop: Lancashire! This, or possibly mooted “possible cuts” to Regional TV following the freezing of the TV License Fee, seems to have coloured coverage of the news, i.e., cheap and close to the main Salford Quays’ studios- with minimal travel time- will do!
For the last fortnight on BBC1 North West Tonight, there has been very little coverage of Cumbria, and none overlapping into northern Cumbria beyond BBC1 North West’s transmission area- even though that is indeed still part of North West England. There has also been a drop in total coverage of either the Isle of Man or the two- thirds of the entire geographical area of North West England that happens to lie North of Preston! The most northerly item of news- coverage this evening on BBC1 North West Tonight was the Dukes Playhouse theatre in Lancaster, although the South Lakes MP Tim Farron did appear in part of the news report about NHS staff having to have Covid-19 vaccinations- or else lose their job- this was not a news- report about Cumbria but it was about the situation across North West England generally. Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region alone accounted for the lion’s share of news- coverage.
Suffice to say, this is completely unsatisfactory for the 800,000 potential viewers of BBC1 North West Tonight who live in northern Lancashire, South Cumbria and on the Isle of Man, for whom the only other readily- available Regional TV News- service is ITV1 Granada Reports, a news- programme which rarely ever mentions Cumbria and which really has little coverage North of Preston. If you live in Morecambe, Fleetwood, Carnforth or Grange-over-Sands it really is totally unacceptable to have no more than 10-15% of total news-coverage coming within an hour’s drive of where you live- whilst if there is a major happening thirty miles further to the north of you, you would never get to hear about it! Over the past year I have at least been able to commend BBC1 North West Tonight for their coverage of Lancashire, even if not Cumbria, but it now seems that BBC1 North West programmers are noticeably scaling back their coverage of Lancashire and minimising their coverage of Cumbria too. The Isle of Man is seeing some reduced coverage overall (it gets one news- feature about the Isle of Man about one night in three now); this is really poor for a small nation in its own right in the Irish Sea- where all areas are at least a three-hour ferry journey from North West England!
This is also the opposite of what the BBC in the North West of England should be doing; the BBC, with it’s BBC Charter stipulating that it provides news covering all parts of the United Kingdom and representing communities in all parts, should be seeking to increase coverage of Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man. Sports coverage often takes up several minutes of the Regional News bulletins, how about cutting that by a minute to make room for a news-feature about Cumbria or the Isle of Man? There’s already one Regional TV News- service, ITV1 Granada Reports, that has long dedicated 75% coverage to Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and Cheshire, viewers in these metropolitan parts of North West England don’t need two Regional TV news- services that hog over 70% of the coverage- and that also provides Sports coverage of their favourite football teams. The BBC has a remit to represent “Communities across the United Kingdom”, which programmers in the North West would do well to adhere to. BBC1 North West Tonight is the only readily- available (on-TV) alternative for better local coverage compared to ITV1 Granada Reports as far north as Millom and this covers a large area of South Cumbria where viewers cannot easily get ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround. The Isle of Man, likewise, has just the two mainstream Salford-based North West England Regional TV News choices as does northern Lancashire.
It is high time that the BBC in the North West were given a timely reminder of their BBC Charter obligations to viewers who live in South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and who live on the Isle of Man. It would also be pertinent to remind both viewers and programmers that, if you do live in northern Lancashire or South Cumbria, there are ways and means to watching alternative Regional TV News- services that- in their coverage a) Are Local and, b) Cover happenings Locally and North of Where You Live. If you live in, say, Morecambe and can get Freeview you can pick up That’s TV Lancashire, if you can get the Winter Hill transmitter (Freeview Channel 7 at 6.pm weekdays). If you switch your aerial so that it points north (and if you can raise it so it has a clear view north), and retune so that you find ITV1 Border (not ITV1 Granada) you can get ITV1 Border Lookaround on your TV at 6.pm (ITV1) instead of ITV1 Granada Reports: You can also catch up with ITV1 Border Lookaround after it has been loaded onto the website about two hours after airing live (website here: https://www.itv.com/news/border), that is assuming you have a Computer with Internet access. Now, That’s TV Lancashire will provide ten minutes’ news just about Lancashire, but if you cannot pick up the signal from Winter Hill on Freeview Channel 7 then the That’s TV Lancashire website will have all the days’ news there (website here: http://www.thats.tv/lancashire/).
Now, That’s TV Lancashire has news just about Lancashire, whilst ITV1 Border’s Lookaround has typically 50 to 60% coverage of Cumbria, often including a couple of news- features about the South Lakes. Coverage of southern Scotland and parts of Northumberland tends to be less than 50% coverage altogether (often comprising no more than three or four news- items on ITV1 Border’s Lookaround). This is not supportive of common misconceptions that ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround is “Mainly about Scotland”! So, shop around and try them out. You will be surprised how much of northern North West England is covered by watching ITV1 Border’s Lookaround and That’s TV Lancashire. If you live somewhere like Lancaster or Garstang, you will net yourselves seven or eight news- items per night about happenings within an hour’s drive of where you live which, I would say, is a huge improvement of getting at most two news- items about happenings within an hour’s drive of your community from BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports, the two mainstream Regional TV News services that are Supposed to Cover North West England. Programmers for BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada, based at Media City on Salford Quays need to discover, more and more, that viewers in the north of their respective transmission areas can, and will, shop around for a more geographic- appropriate Regional News- service if they do not up their game!
If you live on the Isle of Man there is an Isle of Man TV service of sorts, but it is Internet based. This is the You Tube based Isle of Man TV (details here: https://www.youtube.com/c/IsleofManTV/). As a Manx viewer of Regional TV, yours is a truly shocking situation when other small island nations with similar magnitude size of population- like the Faeroe Islands- have their own dedicated television news- service. At the very least, this is something the Manx Government should take the initiative on, since you should not- in any way- have to be scrabbling about on You Tube to find out what is happening in your own country! An e-mail should be directed to the Hon. Julie Edge, the Minister in charge of the Manx Department for Education, Sport and Culture to the e-mail address of: email@example.com. Mark the e-mail F.A.O The Hon. Julie Edge, and explain about the need for the Isle of Man to have it’s own TV News service providing just Manx news. Be sure to C.c. in BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports with the respective e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
If you wish to remind programmers at BBC1 North West Tonight of their remit in terms of the BBC Charter, you can do this and explain that you will be contacting your local MP if they do not cover the local area effectively. Your local MP can be found here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/important-contacts-to-write-to-about-regional-television/. If you then have to write to your MP you can tell them that you do not feel that the BBC in the North West really appreciates that North West England does extend well north of Preston. If you think that what coverage there was has got less, then do point this out and explain that the BBC Charter requires the BBC to represent communities across the United Kingdom (and by extension across North West England)! This will help your local MP to bring pressure to bear on the BBC to improve coverage of northern North West England.
If that fails and both BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada fail to improve the coverage north of Preston, it is time to send another e-mail to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports whilst you C.c. in ITV1 News Border (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) in the e-mail to each of the two mainstream North West England Regional TV services. In that e-mail you explain that northern Lancashire and South Cumbria have stronger links to the Lakes and much of the rest of Cumbria than to Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region. Explain that, as programmers at Media City don’t seem keen on covering happenings north of Preston and they fail to cover Cumbria, that you would like folk in your community to be able to watch ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround on their televisions, so that folk can find out what is happening locally to the north of them. If enough viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria did this, it would sharply focus minds at Media City on Salford Quays!