20th August 2022
A glance through ITV Granada Reports‘ Website (listed here: https://www.itv.com/news/granada), which lists all the news- stories they feature in their programming, and one would be struck by how Greater Manchester/ Merseyside- dominated the news-coverage is, that is, excepting their little Isle of Man section (which if one checks the dates on the articles shows ITV1 Granada Reports mustered just four news items since the 12th August (i.e. over a period of more than a week!). For today (20th August 2022), I looked back over the last three days and it is telling that one finds just two news-features about Lancashire (and even then nothing north of Blackpool). Of the remaining twenty news-items featured one was about Cheshire, the remainder Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Any coverage of Cumbria on ITV Granada Reports is, of course, very rare!
It is abundantly clear for viewers who live in the northern 70% of North West England by geographical area that ITV Granada Reports does not “Cover the North West” as advertised. BBC North West Tonight, which is still heavily-skewed towards Greater Manchester and Merseyside, does at least have 20 to 25% coverage of Lancashire and the Isle of Man, and there will often (though not always) be something about Cumbria in the bulletins. Of course, ITV1 Granada Reports is fine for viewers in Greater Manchester and Merseyside, though even across the southern third of North West England the relentless focus on the metropolitan areas at the expense of other happenings that might locally be more important is unsatisfactory: Viewers in South Cheshire might be interested in major happenings just across the border into northern Shropshire or Staffordshire, whilst in Oldham or Rochdale, east of Manchester a major accident on the M62 just over the border into West Yorkshire may be locally significant. But it is for viewers from Preston northwards that the disconnect between what ITV1 Granada Reports produces and what is relevant to local viewers is most keenly felt.
A one-size-fits-all Regional News-service catering for seven million inhabitants covering a transmission area extending over 100 miles south to north and over 100 miles west to east (which it does if you include the Isle of Man) cannot really provide good, effective Local and Regional News-coverage for all inhabitants. However, BBC North West Tonight, the transmission area of which extends further north into Cumbria manages to make a better stab at it than metropolitan-focussed ITV Granada Reports. This could be because the BBC is underpinned by a BBC Charter that stipulates that the BBC “Must provide News relevant to the interests of all Viewers“, so programmers for BBC North West have some geographical awareness of how much news-coverage different parts of their transmission area have. The fact that BBC North West’s transmission area extends deeper into Cumbria means that programmers are more acutely aware of the need to provide news about Cumbria than in the case of ITV1 Granada Reports.
The up-shot of all this is that if you live anywhere north of a line from Southport to Rochdale you should watch BBC North West Tonight for local and Regional news, not ITV1 Granada Reports. If you wish to watch the ITV Evening News (because it is on at 6.30.pm, the same time as BBC North West Tonight) you still can by recording this- or watching it on ITV Hub later. Then you can watch BBC North West Tonight and then catch up on ITV Evening News. BBC North West Tonight does cover areas north of Wigan rather better than ITV1 Granada Reports, and it always has. So, if you live north of Wigan you should watch BBC1 North West Tonight for local news and news about happenings a bit further north.
Once one gets up as far as the Lancashire-Cumbria border, local viewers notice the sparsity of coverage about happenings to the north of them from either BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports. In places like Carnforth, Milnthorpe, Silverdale, or Hornby in the Lune Valley the disconnect between what both North West Regional TV News-producers produce and what is happening locally (and what is happening of significance in nearby places) is acute. If you live near the Cumbria- Lancashire border, you would be foolish to expect regular geographically-local news from watching ITV1 Granada Reports, unless you have work, friends or family in Manchester and Liverpool (and therefore have an interest in what happens there): ITV1 Granada Reports‘ programmers, with some consideration of money and advertising revenue will provide the news for where 70% of folk living in North West England live- that’s Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire- the 30% Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man are always going to play second-fiddle to the demands of the majority!
Thus, unless one really likes Lucy Meacock, the main presenter for ITV1 Granada Reports, or have personal or family reasons for wanting news about Greater Manchester and Merseyside more than the local area, if it’s Local News you want and you live north of Wigan you Don’t watch ITV Granada Reports. In fact if you live in North Lancashire- the Garstang, Lancaster, Morecambe or Carnforth areas- you would be better tweaking your TV aerial (and raising it high, if possible) so that it has a clear view north. Then you can get ITV1 News Border Lookaround rather than ITV Granada Reports: ITV1 News Border always has at least 50% coverage of Cumbria, with much of the remainder being just over the Scottish Border into south-west Scotland (this is also an additional interest for viewers in North Lancashire with connections to Dumfries and Galloway, which some do).
For viewers of Regional TV in North Lancashire, if one watches ITV Border Lookaround regularly you will also find at least one, often two items each night are about South Cumbria and the Lake District- with which North Lancastrians have stronger local affinity to than to Greater Manchester or Liverpool. At least 50% of the news on ITV1 Border Lookaround, if you watch it over several days, will be about happenings within an hour’s drive of Carnforth and the Lancashire-Cumbria border. On the contrary ITV1 Granada Reports produces no more than 15% of news about happenings within an hour’s drive of Carnforth and the Lancashire-Cumbria border: Switching from ITV1 Granada to ITV1 News Border is a no- brainer if you live in North Lancashire. If you cannot pick up ITV1 News Border from your TV aerial (though you can from a surprising number of places in North Lancashire, especially with a clear view north) you can watch ITV1 Border Lookaround from the ITV1 News Border website (available about two hours after the programme is aired live). The link to the ITV1 News Border website is here: https://www.itv.com/news/border.
Of course, viewers of Regional TV in North Lancashire should also continue to watch BBC1 North West Tonight to get news about Lancashire, but as one gets the signal from the Kendal area (where the transmitter produce ITV1 News Border and BBC1 North West), one can watch ITV1 Border Lookaround to get the Cumbrian news then switch over to BBC1 North West Tonight at 6.30 pm to get the Lancashire news (and a good deal of Greater Manchester/ Merseyside). This is the only realistic way that some-one living in (say) Carnforth or Morecambe can help themselves to all-round North West Regional News-coverage that is more geographic-appropriate.
All of this is far from ideal: Viewers in parts of northern North West England should not have to watch combinations of Regional News- services, neither of which provide good local coverage in themselves (i.e. putting up with some southern Scottish news to get news about Cumbria)- in order to get the best coverage of what is happening in their area and places nearby (by which, to most folk, means within an hour’s drive or travel time of their community): But at present that is what viewers in North Lancashire must do if they want to obtain for themselves the best semblance of good all-round Local and Regional News-coverage.
Good Local News-coverage is important (because folk are informed about local happenings which can then inform their choices of what to do in real time). However, without Government intervention the BBC, ITV.Plc and their Regional News-producers are not going to provide opt-outs and additional Regional News-services for those areas of the United Kingdom that consistently fall in the gaps in Regional and Local News-coverage, because that involves spending money! But that is what needs to happen, there needs to be a shift of financial resources of just 0.1% of GDP to make this happen -surely, keeping people informed about local happenings- so that they can make informed choices- is worth that? Viewers who live in North Lancashire and South Cumbria would therefore do well to write to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport- and their local MP to get the issues around Regional News-coverage addressed.
If you live in North Lancashire or South Cumbria, e-mail details of your local MP are as follows:
Barrow and Furness: The Right Hon. Sir Simon Fell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blackpool North and Cleveleys: The Right Hon Sir Paul Maynard: email@example.com
Copeland: The Right Hon. Lady Trudy Harrison: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lancaster and Fleetwood: The Right Hon. Lady Cat Smith: email@example.com
Morecambe and Lunesdale: The Right Hon. Sir David Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org
Westmorland and Lonsdale: The Right Hon. Sir Tim Farron: email@example.com
Wyre and Preston North: The Right Hon. Sir Ben Wallace: firstname.lastname@example.org