North Lancastrians would value Cumbrian News too on BBC1 North West Tonight.

29th April 2022

Dear Readers

It cannot be said that viewers in Lancashire are not reasonably well-served by news-coverage about Lancashire on BBC1 North West Tonight. This evening, 29th April 2022, BBC1 North West Tonight provided not just one, not just two but four news-features concerning northern Lancashire. There was coverage of the proposed Eden Project North near Morecambe, coverage of a Lancaster man campaigning for improved safety for cyclists after his father was almost killed by a lorry, there was coverage of the police search for a now- suspected murdered woman’s body in the Bowland Fells and the end of this Regional News- programme showed pictures of scarecrows at Wray festival in rural North Lancashire.

So a viewer in, say, Fleetwood or Garstang would have plenty of news about happenings within just a 25-mile radius, certainly what might be considered Immediate Local news. It is certainly better than North Lancastrian viewers would get from ITV1 Granada Reports, a programme which, consistently, has little coverage north of Preston. On the strength of that alone I would recommend that any one living north of Wigan would be better tuning in to BBC1 North West Tonight for geographic- appropriate local and Regional News-coverage.

However, what North Lancastrians expect in a good localised Regional News service is a degree of coverage of areas just north of Preston like this every night, which not even BBC1 North West Tonight delivers consistently. Also, viewers here would expect some wider North West Regional news-coverage, that is of locations a bit further afield but within an hour’s travel time. There is plenty of coverage of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Lancashire, which folk living south of Lancaster will have some interest in, neither BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports disappoint with regards to Manchester/ Liverpool news! However anywhere north of Preston is within an hours’ travel time of much of Cumbria- Penrith is just 59 miles and just one hours’ drive up the A6 and M6 from Garstang- and the Lake District with its lovely scenery is more of a draw (and interest) than a big city like Manchester for a lot of Lancastrian folk. In the very north of Lancashire, viewers in towns like Carnforth or Bolton-le-Sands find South Cumbrian news much more local than news about Preston or Blackburn, and Carlisle in North Cumbria is more local to viewers there than just about anywhere in Greater Manchester.

To that end, the ideal for Regional News for somewhere like Garstang or Morecambe would be a North West Regional News service that not only covers northern Lancashire better but one which also covers Cumbria as well as some important news- items from Manchester, Liverpool and South Lancashire. Also, the issues that pertain to people living in Cumbria will be much more like those affecting rural northern Lancashire communities than the metropolitan concerns in Manchester or Liverpool. Furthermore, what is a good North West Regional News-service for viewers in Morecambe or Carnforth will be very different for viewers in central Manchester or Warrington: Just one large BBC Region covering an area with seven million inhabitants stretching from the central Lake District down to Malpas and Whitchurch, on the Cheshire/ Shropshire border is too large to serve such a huge area adequately.

Now BBC1 North West Tonight does cover Cumbria in news-output, occasionally there will be two or even three news-items about Cumbria in the main evening bulletins. The programme, the transmission area of which extends a bit further north than that of ITV1 Granada Reports certainly covers Cumbria better than its mainstream North West rival: ITV1 Granada Reports covers Cumbria about once in a blue moon! However, the reluctance of broadcasters to cover anything significantly north of the transmission area means that major happenings in places like Appleby, Penrith or Keswick, well within an hour’s travel time of North Lancashire are often missed altogether- on both mainstream North West Regioal News services. This is not at all satisfactory for viewers who live between Kendal and Preston who are just a bit too far south to switch over to ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround (with it’s excellent coverage of Cumbria) on their televisions.

BBC1 North West Tonight‘s coverage of happenings north of Preston has, on balance, improved slightly over the last few years: Lancastrians can expect, on a typical night, to get some two to three news-items about their county and, if one considers Wigan, Bolton and Rochdale to be in Lancashire (as they were prior to 1974) one can state that three to four news-items cover Lancashire on a typical night. In addition Cumbria- typically just South Cumbria (though occasionally a bit further north into Cumbria too)- will get a news-feature on most nights, though periods lasting a week or more can be completely devoid of Cumbrian news on BBC1 North West Tonight. It used to be the case that at least 70% of coverage failed to get north of the M62 Corridor night after night (like it is with ITV1 Granada Reports now), so there has been some improvement.

However, this is still nothing like good enough for a viewer in, say, Carnforth whose ideal North West Regional News- service would be Manchester/ Liverpool up to the Scottish Border. It is also poor for viewers on the Isle of Man, a small country in its own right in the middle of the Irish Sea, who get “local news” that is 95% about another country. There is still room for improvement and, as one cannot really expect BBC1 North West Tonight to devote extra air-time for Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man at the expense of over five million folk who live in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire and north-west Derbyshire and when viewers in those areas also want local news!

Thus, there is still a real need for Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man to have its own BBC1 North West Region or, at least, a 15-minute opt-out from the main BBC1 North West Tonight bulletin with a provision of more bespoke localised news in the opt-out, whilst viewers in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City region receive more localised coverage of the south of the region from the main programme. Viewers in northern Cumbria who receive BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria version) could be switched to this 15-minute Lancashire/ Cumbria and Isle of Man opt-out so that they get more news about their own county with a more North West flavoured bulletin than just getting 80% plus coverage of North East England. An opt-out with a single news-reader in a studio in Carlisle will not cost more than £2 million a year and, if shared between two BBC regions like this would not be an insurmountable cost. But in terms of transforming BBC Regional news for all of Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man so that two million viewers receive much more geographic-appropriate news, it would be transformational.

Since the BBC is unlikely to do anything for its Regional News services that involves spending more money, however it is going to be up to you, the viewers, to write in and complain. Start by emailing BBC1 North West Tonight at: Get your friends to write in demanding more local news-coverage, and to explain that North West England does not stop at Kendal but continues up to the Scottish Border. If that does not yield results, and it likely won’t, you can write to your local MP at:

House of Commons, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 0AA.

Enough people writing to their local MP about Regional Television in a community will- eventually- have an impact.

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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