Is There Scope to Cut BBC Local Radio to fund more localised Regional TV in northern North West England?

15th October 2022

Dear Readers

In northern North West England local folk can tune in to BBC Local Radio stations. These have been provided by the BBC for over fifty years and they weere set up to provide local news- coverage that viewers could not easy get off Regional Television. In the North West of England, folk can tune in to BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Cumbria and, further south, BBC GMR (Greater Manchester) and BBC Radio Merseyside. It is true that BBC Local Radio continues to provide valuable local information, but it is with the caveat that you cannot see pictures or news-clips of the happenings reported and, without seeing the geographical context one could be a little in the dark about what is happening and where (unless one has a good geographical knowledge of the area).

Nowadays, local news and travel up-dates are provided by a number of more localised radio stations. In Cumbria there is Eden FM Radio, there’s Lakeland Radio based in Kendal and covering the South Lakes, there’s Smooth Lake District and in Lancashire there is Heart North Lancashire & Cumbria, there’s North Lancashire’s Beyond Radio and, for the Preston area there’s Rock FM: All provide local news and “Drive-time” travel reports. Further south, the major cities of Manchester, Liverpool and the Warrington area are served by several local radio stations such as XS Manchester, 102 Capital FM (Manchester), Unity Radio, Radio City (Liverpool), 107.6 Capital FM (Liverpool) and Wish FM. In short, there’s a lot to choose from, some local radio outlets will be musicky, some will have more sport and some will be a bit more “local- newsy”.

Alas, radio is radio. It’s what folk have on in the background whilst at work, or whilst cooking tea or driving- their attention is on what they are doing. Radio has the big drawback that you cannot see pictures, footage, maps of where the news is happening, you can only hear it- and that is a big drawback in the provision of local news-coverage! It’s not something that viewers can sit down and watch (and have their full attention on) after their tea. Which brings us to another valid point: The BBC spends about £120 million annually on the provision of BBC Local Radio nationally (see here for reference: https://www.statista.com/statistics/285179/bbc-journalism-national-and-local-radio-spending-in-the-uk-by-service/) that may not be filling quite such a vital gap in the market-place in 2022 with several other local radio stations to choose from in the cities. Now, the BBC provides some forty Local Radio services across Britain and the Channel Islands (details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_BBC_radio_stations), so if just four of the Metropolitan City BBC local radio areas could be merged across Britain that would save £12 million a year- enough money for a totally new BBC Region to be funded and an opt-out provided within another BBC Region.

Now, in North West England it is true that BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC GMR and BBC Radio Merseyside join together on week-end evenings so it is already the case that listeners in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside do not get undiluted local output from each. Listeners of BBC Radio Cumbria get merged with BBC Local Radio stations in the North East at these times, so listeners in Barrow-in-Furness and West Cumbria get output from the North East! The merging, as already happens, reduces the savings from axing one BBC Local Radio station but the scope for merging increases it. There is also scope for altering the transmission areas and having larger areas that provide a bigger scope for all-round local news so that a listener in somewhere like Wigan gets Lancashire and northern Greater Manchester news, for example. The regions local radio stations are grouped into can also be changed so that some-one living in Barrow-in-Furness does not get news about North East England in the evening.

Across northern England, including the north Midlands I would suggest the followig changes that, in these days of wide radio choice would help retain the BBC as a provider of news rather than music and provide a more geographic appropriate mix:

  1. BBC Radio Stoke is abolished and a new BBC Radio Merseyside, Cheshire, North Staffordshire/ Shropshire and NE Wales provides news for an area which actually has stronger geographic ties across it. Communities in northern Staffordshire and northern Shropshire have strong links with (and identify with) North West England and north-east Wales rather than the Midlands so this makes sense. Those in north-east Wales have stronger links with the adjacent North West of England than with distant Cardiff. I somewhat higher proportion of news would answer concerns about dilution of coverage.
  2. BBC GMR and BBC Radio Lancashire are abolished in lieu of an extended BBC Radio Manchester and Lancashire, covering almost all the former BBC GMR and most of the BBC Radio Lancashire areas, again with a slightly more newsy leaning. Most of Greater Manchester was historically part of Lancashire, and folk living in North Manchester, Rochdale, Wigan and Bolton would, in particular appreciate recognition of this fact. There are plenty of other stations focussed solely on Manchester for those that want it. Preston, Chorley and Rossendale also have strong links with what is today northern Greater Manchester and the Southport area of Merseyside (so Southport would also be included in the new BBC Local Radio area), so a BBC Local Radio station covering this whole area of what was traditionally central and South Lancashire makes sense.
  3. A new BBC Radio North West would cover the area extending from Preston and Blackpool up to Carlisle and it would include all West Cumbria. BBC Radio Cumbria would be abolished.
  4. In the North East BBC Radio Tees would be abolished whilst BBC Radio Newcastle would become BBC Radio NE & Borders. The new BBC Radio NE & Borders service would cover all the existing BBC Radio Newcastle area of Tyne and Wear, North Durham and Northumberland, as well as the Scottish Borders up to Galashiels, and west as far as Carlisle and Penrith (for the benefit of north-east Cumbrians and for North Northumbrians who want a more North-East and Borders flavoured news).
  5. BBC Radio North Yorkshire would also be abolished and both the BBC Radio North Yorkshire (except the south around Selby and York) and BBC Radio Tees areas would be covered by a new BBC Radio Tees and North Yorkshire that would have a little more news focussed on central and northern North Yorkshire, Teesside and southern County Durham.
  6. BBC Radio Leeds would become BBC Radio Mid-Yorkshire and its remit extended east and north to York, Selby and Skipton and also westwards to the Diggle and Uppermill areas (in what is easternmost Greater Manchester, but which were historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire). This would provide better local all-round coverage for a number of areas.
  7. BBC Radio Sheffield would have its remit extended to all northern Derbyshire and northern Nottinghamshire (communities in those areas identify more readily as “Northern” than “East Midlands” and have strong links with towns and cities in South Yorkshire). BBC Radio Sheffield would be renamed BBC Radio Sheffield and Peak (as it includes the Peak District).
  8. BBC Radio Derby is then abolished and the south of the BBC Radio Derby area is joined with that of BBC Radio Nottingham to create a new BBC Radio East Midlands. This would then provide a slightly more newsy service for the southern Nottingham and southern Derbyshire areas, which would be more suitable for that entire area.

These changes would be accompanied by changes to the regional affiliation of the new/ existing BBC local radio stations. The new BBC North West Radio encompassing most of Cumbria and the northern half of Lancashire join with BBC Radio Manchester and Lancashire and BBC Radio Merseyside, Cheshire, North Staffordshire/ Shropshire and NE Wales at late nights and weekend evenings. BBC Radio NE & Borders would join with BBC Radio Tees and North Yorkshire at the same time. The entire process would involve the abolition of four BBC local radio stations overall, plus some more regional sharing of services in evenings- leading to a saving of £15 million annually. As a result of this change a brand new BBC North West Tonight could be broadcast to Lancashire and Cumbria (northern Cumbrians would still have the option of watching BBC Look North, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne but there would be a real choice for West Cumbrians to have a more North West and locally flavoured Regional News-service than they currently get). The new BBC North West Region would provide a special opt-out providing bespoke news for the Isle of Man. For the other side of the Pennines there would be £3 million annually left from all these savings for two opt-outs within BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria), one for rural Northumberland (which would include overlap coverage of the Scottish Borders) and one for North Yorkshire.

Almost certainly, for viewers who may also listen to BBC Local Radio and who live anywhere north of the M62 Corridor, it is certain that the overall impact of such changes would, despite the changes to BBC Local Radio would stand to benefit much more from getting much more localised and geographic-appropriate Regional TV. The same would be true for viewers of BBC Look North (NE/Cumbria) today who live in northern Cumbria, rural northern Northumberland and North Yorkshire.

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.

2 thoughts on “Is There Scope to Cut BBC Local Radio to fund more localised Regional TV in northern North West England?

  1. Well i do think that all good to help but any where money for a isle of man bbc radio i alway lol wene bbc news say you keep update on you locla bbc radio where you are,

    well in isle of man there no bbc radio and so bad like we isle of mna pay tax for 2 pbs manx radio do jobe and bbc do ….. all for isle of man and so bad bbc not get any money for a bbc isle of man radio and tv

    like manx radio find money do lot more have 33 on air staff and bnuch staff offair it get help form tax payer as get money form manx gox off tax so we manx pubic pay both bbc and manx radio and manx redio get money by play raido advert

    where the bbc get pay by manx pubilc form isle of man what we get is 3 bbc isle of man staff no bbc isle of man radio no tv output have staff that most of time not put any of bog news on tv and a webpage nerver update isle of man news allways 2 or 3 days late on bbc then the Independent local Manx Media do on day of story what funny is Independent radio and Media msot them have more then 3 staff

    the bbc on isle of man is a joke real bad i hope one day get sort on isle of man

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: