4th February 2022
This evening, Friday 4th February viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria had precious little “local” news from BBC1 North West Tonight. There was a news- report about the Isle of Man soon being open for business, a rare crumb of joy for Manx viewers who get little news about their own country from the “local” news service they are provided with by the BBC! However, the most northerly item of news was about Preston and the remainder of news-items were about Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire (including seven minutes of Sports coverage)! In ITV1 Granada Reports there was nothing about either Lancashire (except a skier in the Winter Olympics being Lancastrian) or the Isle of Man!
Meanwhile, a bit further north in Cumbria (i.e., north of Kendal) viewers can get ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround, in which- on the evening of Friday 4th February 2022- there were four news- features about Cumbria (one of them an eight-minute piece about a modern slavery case in Carlisle), this could be considered six news-items in total about Cumbria if one includes coverage of Carlisle United and Whitehaven Rugby Club (though I do not actually consider Sports coverage to be news). The Cumbrian news-features included a lengthy piece about mussels in the River Kent, near Kendal. It’s patently clear then, that if you live in Carnforth or Morecambe you would have received more geographic- appropriate news from ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround than you would have from ITV1 Granada Reports– or even BBC1 North West Tonight (at least this evening, Friday 4th February).
However, if viewers have the will to do something about it, they can change the Regional TV News that they can watch. Viewers can write in, they can protest and- today- they can even switch to a different ITV1 Region to get more “geographic-appropriate” North West news! By doing this sustainably in sufficient numbers , they can bring about a change of mind at the Media City, Salford Quays headquarters of both ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight: That this is possible was amply demonstrated by a significant small number of viewers over thirty years ago- about an hour’s drive north up the M6 from the Cumbria/ Lancashire boundary!
From October 1986, northern Cumbria received their BBC1 Regional TV News from Manchester- BBC1 North West Tonight was broadcast right up to the Scottish Border north of Carlisle. Local viewers were outraged at having over 80% of the so-called “Local News” coming from over eighty miles to the south of their communities. North Cumbrian viewers campaigned vigorously for BBC Regional News-coverage for northern Cumbria to come from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (as it had done prior to October 1986) than from Manchester on the grounds that Carlisle and North Cumbria had more direct links with Newcastle, than with Manchester. There is a description of this sorry episode about two-thirds of the way down the article here: https://www.transdiffusion.org/2008/04/08/byebye_border.
When northern Cumbria was transferred to BBC North West there were continued protests by viewers, this was despite the fact that BBC1 North West provided a special lunch-time Cumbrian news opt-out for North Cumbrian viewers, who felt that Cumbria was being ignored in lieu of news about Manchester and Cheshire. Yet local folk continued to protest that folk who live in Carlisle and North Cumbria had stronger links with Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the grounds of geographical proximity, even though North Cumbria is still in North West England. Eventually, in September 1991 the BBC relented and northern Cumbria was transferred back to BBC1 Look North (from Newcastle-upon-Tyne).
Some interesting points: The people of North Cumbria complained and protested in their thousands about getting news mainly about Manchester and Merseyside (with which they had little affiliation)- and the BBC responded after much pressure. In the late 1980’s viewers in northern Cumbria could still get Border Television (as it then was) and watch Lookaround to get excellent coverage of Cumbria. Whatever the merits of viewers in locations such as Whitehaven or Keswick getting news about Sunderland and Middlesbrough from BBC1 Look North– NE version (a topic relevant to folk getting local news for discussion another day), the fact remains is that North Cumbrians objected very strongly to getting BBC1 North West Tonight– the content of which was even less relevant to viewers)- between 1986 and 1991. And the BBC was (eventually) forced to respond!
Now, an hour’s drive down the M6 from those who protested at receiving BBC1 North West Tonight over thirty years ago are more communities that are still, nonetheless provided with a Regional News-service that is not geographic- appropriate to where they live to this day. Viewers in communities around Lancaster, Carnforth, Grange-over-Sands and even Millom in south-west Cumbria also receive BBC1 North West Tonight and the default ITV1 alternative is Granada Reports. Neither provide news that is geographic-appropriate to these communities, with 80% of news-coverage being about locations over an hour’s drive to the south. And viewers in those communities have suffered this state of affairs not for five years but ever since there has been Regional Television broadcast in the 1950’s!
However, if you are viewers of Regional Television who live in these parts of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire, who are frustrated at the lack of coverage that gets North of Preston can I point out: It doesn’t have to be this way! Even if BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada provided North Lancastrians with a special opt-out at lunchtimes with just news about Lancashire, you could still protest that your local area should be transferred to ITV1 Border’s transmission area on the grounds that northern Lancashire has stronger links with Cumbria than with Greater Manchester or Merseyside. And the lesson of those protesting North Cumbrians over thirty years ago is that you can expect ITV1 Granada and ITV1 Border to agree to act on your demands.
In an ideal world, Manx, South Cumbrian and northern Lancastrian viewers would be provided with a 15-minute opt-out in BBC1 North West Tonight which would provide bespoke local coverage complete with some overlap coverage of northern Cumbria. This would recognise that viewers in these areas are still part of North West England, so there would be some exposure to headline news- features about Manchester and Liverpool. However, such an opt-out news- service would be cognisant of the fact that for viewers north of Preston or on the Isle of Man, what happens in South Manchester or Liverpool is normally of little relevance to their day- to-day lives and it would also recongise the strong links between Cumbria and northern Lancashire.
Unfortunately, we are in a situation where BBC1 North West Tonight, which has at least covered Lancashire fairly well and provided some regular coverage of Cumbria some of the time until the recent past, is scaling back it’s coverage north of Preston. And with the freeze in the TV Licence fee coming up- at a time of higher Inflation and rising bills- it is almost certain the BBC Management will be looking for savings. That means that the BBC, as they have tended to do in the recent past when faced with financial difficulties, will look at reducing costs with Regional TV services: BBC offices in the more “provincial” parts of North West England (one remains in Blackburn) will be axed and reporters will travel less from the Salford Quay’s headquarters, and it means coverage from North of Preston will be reduced further. Yet People-Power can not only stop this trend but massively reverse it and see improvements to Regional TV News-coveraage of their rather more northern North West England communities!
Poor coverage for viewers living north of Preston can be consigned to history quite easily. The following six-step strategy involving a hypothetical group of 100 Viewers living in Carnforth would work wonders:
Step 1. Firstly, these viewers write to BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada and complain about the fact that over 80% of the news-coverage is not local to where they live, and the fact that even quite major happenings just 30 miles to the north just do not get reported on. They ask for something to be done about it.
Step 2. Secondly, if the response from BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada are not conducive to changes being made for the better, the 100 Carnforth viewers write to their local MP, in this case The Right Hon. David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale. Viewers then explain to him- in a letter addressed to House of Commons, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 0AA (not an email, because letters have more impact these days)- that neither BBC1 nor ITV1 provide a Regional News- service relevant to viewers in North Lancashire, and that programmers won’t do anything about it on the grounds of cost. Viewers should point out that, under the BBC Charter, that the BBC should provide news-coverage of relevance to all viewers wherever they live.
Step 3. For ITV1 Granada, the 100 Carnforth viewers should also write to OFCOM Complaints at this address: PO Box 1285, Warrington WA1 9GL. The ITV1 Regions are expected to provide viewers with so much Regional News in each ITV1 Region, and although this does not specify from where in the ITV1 Region it must come it is certain that OFCOM would not look too kindly on the ITV1 Region News- service for North West England effectively ignoring the northern half of the transmission area.
Step 4. If BBC1 and ITV1 are still not making meaningful improvements to news- coverage north of Preston after the involvement of the local MP and OFCOM the 100 Carnforth viewers need to write (collectively) to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport to point out that neither of the two mainstream Regional TV News- services that are the default for North Lancashire and near- coastal South Cumbria provide geographic- apropriate news-coverage. The viewers should add that this goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the BBC Charter that stipulates that the BBC must provide news and output representative of all parts of the United Kingdom. The address to write to is: The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport, 100 Parliament Street, London SW1A 2BQ. This is almost certain to lead to pressure on the BBC to ensure BBC1 North West Tonight increases the proportion of news-coverage for the areas north of Preston within it’s transmission area.
Step 5, Part a. If, despite no meaningful improvements or, as a result of cost-pressures either/ both BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada actually reduce to miniscule the amount of Cumbrian, North Lancastrian or Manx news-coverage after a further couple of weeks, the 100 Carnforth viewers must change tack. They must take a stand on behalf of all viewers of Regional TV north of Preston and campaign to get their local area transferred from the ITV1 Granada Region to the ITV1 Border Region on the grounds of Local and Regional Affiliation of North Lancashire to Cumbria- as opposed to Greater Manchester and Merseyside. The viewers should also be clear that they are aware that if North Lancashire’s communities are transferred from the ITV1 Granada Region (with a population of seven million inhabitants in the transmission area- most of which are along or south of the M62 Corridor) to the ITV1 Border Region (which will have just over a million inhabitants with inclusion of northern Lancashire), that then there will be a marked improvement of local coverage of North Lancashire too.
Step 5. Part b. Thus, these viewers should write to Ms Michaela Byrne, the Head of ITV1 News Border programming to request this change at this address- with the letter marked URGENT: Ms Michaela Byrne, Head of News, ITV Tyne Tees & Border, Television House, The Watermark, GATESHEAD. NE11 9SZ. In addition to doing this, the 100 Carnforth viewers should e-mail ITV1 Granada Reports at: email@example.com. The viewers should thus tell ITV1 Granada Reports that they have written to Michaela Byrne, Head of News at ITV Tyne Tees & Border to formally request a transfer of North Lancashire to the ITV1 Border Region because “Cumbria is More Local to North Lancashire than Manchester or Liverpool”. Likewise, the 100 Carnforth viewers should tell BBC1 North West programmers that they have written to the Head of News for ITV1 Border for the same reason by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 5. Part c. In addition to this, the 100 Carnforth viewers should do everything in their power- by swivelling their aerials around so that they point north- to pick up ITV1 News Border and Lookaround, rather than ITV1 Granada Reports on their televisions. If they cannot get a signal from anything other than ITV1 Granada then ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround is available on the ITV1 News Border website about two hours after airing (website link here: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2021-11-22/watch-the-itv-news-border-evening-programme). If the viewers can do this, they should also email both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to spell out why they are watching ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround, rather than the mainstream North West Regional TV programmes! That will also pressurise news- programmers at Media City into taking viewers who live North of Preston rather more seriously than they do today!
Step 6. It is very likely that after our 100 North Lancastrian viewers complain to the BBC and ITV about a lack of local news- coverage, complain to OFCOM, the local MP and Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport- and then write to the Head of News for the adjacent ITV1 Region requesting a transfer of the local area to that ITV1 Region, that either or both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports would cave to pressure and increase news- coverage of northern North West England and the Isle of Man. But if they do not, perhaps because of increasing cost pressures on the BBC or on ITV.Plc, theres a further strategy that our 100 Carnforth viewers could do to increase the pressure: It’s the Power of Protest! They should make up big banners with “WE WANT CUMBRIA AND NORTH LANCASHIRE NEWS, NOT MANCHESTER AND LIVERPOOL NEWS!” and “WE WANT ITV BORDER LOOKAROUND, NOT ITV GRANADA REPORTS! WE WANT LOCAL NEWS!”. And with these banners our 100 Carnforth Viewers should travel down to Media City, Salford Quays and start their protest with their banners close to the Media City entrance! A week-day is preferable when there is more chance of BBC1 North West or ITV1 Granada staff and presenters seeing the protest. Assuming they have the resources, the 100 Carnforth Viewers should then travel north and east to The Watermark at Gateshead to protest with another banner “WE WANT ITV BORDER! WE WANT CUMBRIA AND NORTH LANCASHIRE NEWS, NOT MANCHESTER AND LIVERPOOL NEWS!”. There is the right to protest in this country about issues affecting ones lives or the quality and/ or relevance of the Public services one receives. Use it to maximum effect!
This last step may need repeating several times over a year. It would add even further pressure on both the BBC and ITV1 Granada in North West England to improve Local and Regional news-coverage and make it geographically- appropriate for those viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria whose default Regional TV News- services are ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight. If our 100 Carnforth viewers keep it up for five years, who knows what that might result in: They may be a brand new BBC1 North West Region for just South Cumbria, Lancashire and the Isle of Man- complete with overlap coverage of northern Cumbria and an opt-out for the Isle of Man. Perhaps ITV.Plc will transfer all areas north of Preston from the ITV1 Granada Region to the ITV1 Border Region, with ITV1 News Border reintroducing the Selkirk opt-out for Southern Scottish and any North Northumbrian viewers whilst the main ITV1 News Border Lookaround programme for Cumbria and northern Lancashire is tailored to provide more Cumbrian and North Lancastrian news. Either would be a big improvement on what viewers in northern Lancashire and much of South Cumbria have today!
The final part is down to you: Are you a North Lancastrian or South Cumbrian viewer who would prefer there to be- readily available- more local news about Cumbria and northern Lancashire rather than Manchester and Liverpool? Can you find 100 other like- minded folk? And are you willing to collectively campaign for change and an improvement to the Regional TV News- services that you receive? If you are, then work through the Six-Step process outlined above and you Can Change Regional TV for your area! Folk up near Carlisle did it over thirty years ago- So Can You!