1st March 2022
Yesterday morning, at about 11.15 am there was a fatal collision on the northbound M6 between Junction 39 (Shap turn-off) and Junction 40 (Penrith and North Lakes turn-off): Two people were killed when the car they were travelling in collided with a van, and a third occupant of the car sustained multiple injuries and was taken to hospital (details here: https://twitter.com/BBCNEandCumbria/status/1498328623358615553). Yet there was not a peep about this from either BBC1 North West Tonight nor on ITV1 Granada Reports– either yesterday or today (Tuesday 1st March).
The non- coverage of Cumbria from ITV1 Granada Reports and the scant mention of (just South) Cumbria from BBC1 North West Tonight is something that South Cumbrian and North Lancastrian viewers stuck with both these mainstream North West Regional TV News- services have had to put up with for a long time. But when there is a fatal accident on the M6 in Cumbria, involving people travelling on the northbound side of the M6 at 11.15 am, one does have to consider the likelihood that the car- occupants who were killed were travelling from a home in North West England not in northern Cumbria. There will likely be a grieving family (or families) somewhere in North West England.
The other point to note with this nasty accident was that the northbound M6 was shut whilst the Emergency Services attended the scene and cleared the wreckage. There was- put in place a diversion via the A6 and A66 from the Shap junction of the M6 to the Penrith junction of the M6. Now, just what would be the geographic origin of those motorists likely to need warning of the diversion on the northbound M6 in that part of Cumbria. Is it not conceivable that the affected motorists would come from South Cumbria, Lancashire and as far south as Greater Manchester and the Warrington area? The motorists are more likely to come from the North West than from North East England.
Yet the news of the smash features on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround (as it should because this fatal motorway smash occurred in Cumbria), but North West England’s viewers of Regional Television (and potential motorists from there) needed to hear this news even more than viewers in North East England, or in southern Scotland. But neither BBC1 North West Tonight nor ITV1 Granada Reports even mentioned it.
This, of course, is unacceptable: If you live in Morecambe, or Carnforth or Grange-over-Sands you have not been informed of a very serious happening less than an hour’s drive from where you live, one that could portend devastation for your local community (or a nearby community) because two people were killed. Good Regional Television should provide news about major happenings that affect folk’s day-to- day lives locally, it is a Public- service that viewers depend on to be informed about happenings and events locally (which includes locally- to the North), so that they can make informed choices. That did not happen.
The situation in Ukraine is, of course, very serious and there are Ukrainian families living in the North West of England concerned about relatives who are back in Ukraine. It is right that BBC1 North West Tonight devotes air-time to this, and it would be a matter of concern if they did not. However, when ten minutes coverage of Ukraine issues cuts into coverage of other matters of importance what should not happen is for five minutes to be devoted to an interview with a boxing star (as happened this evening), with an extra five minutes covering the weather-forecast (a minute of which was horseplay between Roger Johnson, the main presenter and Owain Wyn Evans, the weather- presenter). There’s a place for some Sports coverage, and there’s a place for camaraderie and happiness with the BBC1 North West Tonight team, but when other major happenings abroad impact on North West England, the main news-coverage should not be so squeezed that there is only room for three extra news-items in a half-hour programme!
Of course, these are not the only reasons for the non- coverage of the fatal crash on the M6 just south of Penrith. BBC1 North West’s programmers religiously stick to a policy of not covering that part of Cumbria north of BBC1 North West’s transmission area- despite, that is, 200,000 inhabitants who live in South Cumbria being potential viewers of BBC1 North West Tonight. BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria), on the other hand, will cover South Cumbrian news for the benefit of their North and West Cumbrian viewers- to the extent that BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) covers South Cumbria in it’s bulletins more than BBC1 North West Tonight does. That is despite the fact that South Cumbrian viewers get BBC1 North West output, and about half of these viewers do not have the option to switch over to ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround, (which covers Cumbria extremely well).
BBC1 and ITV1 Regional News output for locations north of Preston is sorely lacking though, to be fair on BBC1 North West Tonight, they do cover Lancashire quite well. This evening the programme covered the plight of an autistic teenager from Lancaster with cancer and the programme also covered a specialist cancer- screening unit in Preston. Last night’s late bulletin (28th February) had two pieces on Lancashire, one of which covered an interview with a relative of a young lady with Down’s Syndrome- from Blackpool- left to die by her mother. However, if you live in Lancaster, Garstang or Carnforth the Lancashire news only covers half the areas local to your area- excluding Cumbria means that one does not get to hear about happenings within an hour’s drive to the north of you. And a fatal accident on the M6, with the motorway closed, is a major happening one might want to be informed of!
This, of course, is unacceptable to viewers who live in northern North West England. Neither of the two mainstream North West Regional TV News- services actually “Cover the North West”, as they advertise because there are patently parts of North West England they do not cover at all or only cover very infrequently. This does not make for good all-round local news-coverage if you live in, say, Carnforth where places within an hour’s travel- time extend as far north as Carlisle and as far east as Hawes or Skipton (in the Yorkshire Dales), as well as south to the northern outskirts of Manchester or Warrington. Local folk need to realise they are being short- changed and complain to both BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada, then they should write to their local MP if the pleas for improved coverage fall on deaf ears.
Ultimately, it may be necessary for a strong powerful intervention from OFCOM to get ITV.Plc to transfer all of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire from its ITV1 Granada transmission region to its ITV1 Border transmission region. This would give viewers in all of northern North West England access to much better all-round and local news-coverage: Then the days when folk living in Carnforth or Morecambe don’t get to know about fatal pile-ups on the M6 in Cumbria and the M6 being shut would be over!
Of course, viewers will need to get behind this rather necessary change (should it come to this), safe in the knowledge that they still have BBC1 North West Tonight providing news of further south- towards Manchester but also realising that they would have a more northerly (and localised) alternative: It is almost certain that were ITV1 Border to take on northern Lancashire (which they would be reluctant to do unless persuaded to do so from above), that they would resurrect the “Selkirk opt-out” for viewers on the Scottish side of the Scottish Border, so that the main (Cumbrian) ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround would concentrate more on Cumbria, northern Lancashire and westernmost Northumberland, with perhaps two or three news-features about southern Scotland for the benefit of viewers close to the Scottish Border. The content would be rather more local than news that is 80% about Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire!
Such changes are unlikely to happen without hundreds of local folk writing in and complaining- to the BBC and ITV1 in the North West, to the local MP and then to OFCOM if changes are not forthcoming and then, if all else fails, folk helping themselves (and their friends) to get more localised and geographic- appropriate news-coverage. Viewers in North Lancashire may not know it, but it is possible to pick up the signal from ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround from their aerial pointed the right way across almost all of Morecambe, most of Heysham, parts of Carnforth, a significant portion of north and east Lancaster and parts of the lower Lune Valley too.
However, I am well aware that there are significant parts of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire were viewers cannot watch ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround from their televisions as they cannot get the signal for it: In that case folk can get it from the ITV1 Border website from about two hours after the programme is aired live (website details here: https://www.itv.com/news/border): Typically, over 50% of the coverage is about Cumbria and, even though it does not cover Lancashire it means adding ITV1 Border to one’s arsenal of local TV news- services (in order to get news about happenings north of one’s home) is a no- brainer if you either live in Cumbria or close to the Cumbria- Lancashire boundary! The days when folk are forced to watch local news- services that are the default for their communities, even when the content is not local or geographic- appropriate, are in fact over!
When viewers who live north of Preston realise they can switch channels, choose Regional News services that are not the default ones for their community in order to get better local news- coverage- and they do this in increasing numbers, then that will shake the complacency of the mainstream North West Regional TV News- services. Then they might start to take notice of viewers in their more northern hinterlands and start to cover all of North West England- Properly! That would be a good day.