A Loss of Funding for the BBC means Big Regions providing No Local News in Northern North West England

20th January 2022

Dear Readers


Upon watching both BBC1 North West Tonight, presented by Annabel Tiffin and ITV1 Granada Reports this evening, 20th January 2022, one was dismayed by the absence of coverage that got anywhere north of the Trough of Bowland (on ITV1 Granada Reports there was nothing north of Clitheroe),- viewers living in Ulverston or Carnforth would have found nothing of real relevance to where they live (and certainly they would have had no news about happenings north of them). However, if recent reports of the BBC License fee being frozen and axed after 2027 are to happen (as reported here: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/jan/16/bbc-licence-fee-to-be-abolished-in-2027-and-funding-fro and here: https://www.nme.com/news/tv/bbc-licence-fee-abolished-2027-cost-frozen-next-two-years-3138982 ), then it is likely that BBC1 Regional News will suffer major cuts to funding. That is because Regional Television is one of the areas of expenditure that the BBC consider cutting when they have to make economies (see this article here about mooted cuts to BBC1 North West Tonight in summer 2020 when the BBC faced financial issues: https://www.lep.co.uk/news/people/petition-save-bbc-north-west-presenting-team-threatened-ps125m-corporation-cuts-launched-2904083).

One of the ways that the BBC might try and save money is by cutting the number of reporters and reducing sub- regional offices: Coverage of northern Lancashire and Cumbria on BBC1 North West Tonight has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the closure of a base in Lancaster and another base in Blackpool, from when the BBC last had to make savings. The other thing that is quite likely to happen is the amalgamation of BBC1 Regions with adjacent BBC1 Regions- or indeed parts of adjacent BBC1 Regions that are broken up and parts pasted onto BBC1 Regions. It is not inconceivable that North Wales is separated from South Wales, with North Wales being put into the BBC1 North West Region whilst South Wales is pasted to the BBC1 South West Region.

Of course, the BBC should focus on what they offer that is head and shoulders above the competition- the provision of high-quality news and documentaries, relevant to all those who watch it. If folk wish to watch Films, Comedy or Sport there are- in 2022- a plethora of channels that folk can get off Netflix or Amazon Prime. It is possible, with a bit of focussing of resources on what makes the BBC stand out, for the BBC to deal with the £2 billion real-terms funding shortfall they are threatened with over the next five years to focus on cutting out middle management, deciding to shut down between midnight and 5.am (as they used to) and even renting out office space to film companies. They could even decide that East Enders has had its day and save money that way. Plenty of other outlets provide soap operas, maybe one of these could take on East Enders!

Regional News is something positive that is part of the BBC brand, at least in those parts of northern North West England just a bit too far south to pick up ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround– and where Lancashire and South Cumbria are better-covered on BBC1 North West Tonight than on ITV1 Granada Reports. Even with the moratorium on Cumbrian coverage from both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports there were four news- reports about Lancashire on BBC1 North West Tonight this evening, even though their most northerly report was this evening about the tragic loss of life when a bridge collapsed in the Bowland Fells. It still means that folk living in far northern Lancashire- in Morecambe, Carnforth or Hornby, or in South Cumbria get little geographic- appropriate coverage, alas! However on ITV1 Granada Reports there were just two news-items about Lancashire this evening- and nothing came from north of Clitheroe! Most Lancastrians would, therefore, have reason to complain about ITV1 Granada’s coverage.

However, as BBC looks set to have its funding phased out altogether over the next five years, the BBC will be under great pressure to make economies. If BBC1 North West axe their Blackburn base that will lead to less coverage north of the M62 corridor. If North Wales is added to the BBC1 North West transmission region all of North West England that recieves BBC1 North West Tonight (northern Cumbria does not), particularly that part North of the M62 Corridor, will suffer reduced local coverage. In short, BBC1 North West Tonight will become even worse than ITV1 Granada Reports in terms of coverage for viewers across Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man. It is fairly likely that the BBC in the North West will prioritise coverage for the most populated areas to keep viewers happy, i.e., Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and the Warrington area- Manx, South Cumbrian and North Lancastrian viewers won’t get a look in!

In order to try and prevent an even worse coverage for locations North of Preston (even today, BBC1 North West Tonight does not provide geographic- appropriate coverage for the northern North West), this Website will advise folk to warn the BBC1 in North West England not to cut funding for Regional News when the inevitable squeeze comes. The email to send your concerns to is, as always, nwt@bbc.co.uk. If more folk in the North West are aware of the possibility that the BBC might consider making cuts to Regional Television then they can forestall this possibility by forewarning the BBC not to make cuts there.

In view of how important Local and Regional TV News is, I would go further. Certainly in terms of the two- thirds of North West England North of Preston there is not enough coverage, at least not from the BBC. That means more resources need to be put into Regional Television, not less! And whilst I do not disagree with the current Conservative Government wanting to cut taxes, especially when folk are facing a cost of living crisis (especially in North West England), the Government does need to be mindful of the effects of cutting off the supply of Public funds to the BBC and try to help the Corporation find alternative funding streams to support vital Public services- like Regional and Local news.

It is certainly true that the BBC should not be dependent on public funds from taxpayers if it is to remain impartial, but the Government should look at the following policies for helping it to better fund Regional News, such as:

1) Altering the BBC Charter to make expenditure on News and quality documentaries take up a higher percentage of total BBC funding than it does at present.

2) Allowing the BBC to rent out premises or offices when not in use- for business interests like filming, conferences, local government, etc.

3) Allow the BBC to have product placement and sponsorship from local businesses for Regional and Local News- provision.

4) Allow and encourage the BBC to run local and Regional lotteries and prize draws to raise funds for Local and Regional News Programmes.

When the BBC loses the TV License fee altogether, it will need to be allowed to offer a subcription service. However, providing good quality News-coverage and documentaries costs money, so measures such as Public Private partnerships, encouraging business investment and local community investment- and indeed making the BBC a special case and waiving Corporation Tax, VAT and business rates on the BBC (or its premises) will help the BBC to continue to produce high-quality news and documentaries in the future. If the BBC is to get special tax treatment it will, of course, continue to need to be underpinned by the BBC Charter, which would ideally be strengthened so that the BBC is required to provide good Regional TV coverage for all its viewers- including in Cumbria, the Isle of Man and northern Lancashire!

If you think the Government should proceed with care- and explore the above suggestions for private funding for the BBC when License fee money is withdrawn so that vital services like Regional Television are improved and not cut back, then do e-mail the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS): The e-mail address is: enquiries@dcms.gov.uk. Be sure to mark your e-mail URGENT!

If the neither the BBC in the North West, nor ITV1 Granada Reports improve coverage North of Preston, and instead BBC1 North West Tonight gets worse in terms of coverage of the northern North West of England as financial pressures loom, this Website will advise viewers who live north of Preston writing to BBC1 North West Tonight and threatening to switch to ITV1 News Border and Lookaround for more geographic- appropriate coverage.

If Regional News-coverage for northern Lancashire and South Cumbria actually gets worse on BBC1 North West Tonight, this Website will start advising that folk in Lancaster, Fleetwood, Morecambe, Millom, Barrow-in-Furness and Kirkby Lonsdale write to ITV1 News Border to state that “The Lakes are more local to us than Manchester/ Liverpool. We want to be in the ITV1 Border TV Region because we would get More Local News!”. ITV1 News Border can be contacted at: btvnews@itv.com.

If, by 2028 ITV1 have made cuts and ITV1 Border has been re-amalgamated with ITV1 Tyne Tees (possibly because the Scottish half of ITV1 Border is in a Scotland that has become independent), then either That’s TV Cumbria or Cumbria Crack (now operated vis Barrnon Media)- if either are providing local TV News for Cumbria then, it might be worth writing to and asking to be able to get their Cumbrian news-programming. If this Website is still having to campaign for better Regional News for northern Lancashire and South Cumbria by 2028, and if (heaven forbid!) ITV1 Border has effectively been mothballed this Website will throw its weight behind making sure all North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians can easily get That’s TV Cumbria (currently Freeview Channel 8, only available in North Cumbria) or able to get Cumbria Crack TV (if that exists by then).

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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