We are Right to Fear Cuts To Regional TV in NW England: The BBC are already doing this and we have BBC Cuts!

3rd November 2022

Dear Readers

Previously, this Website postulated a worst-case Scenario for Regional TV in North West England and in North East England by 2050 as a result of ITV.Plc being allowed to dispense with Regional TV News-provision and the BBC amalgamating its BBC1 TV Regions so that just nine exist in Britain (you can read all about this unfortunate scenario here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2021/08/21/regional-tv-in-cumbria-and-north-lancashire-by-2050-a-worst-case-scenario/). Were it to happen Cumbria, Lancashire and rural North East England would suffer even worse provision of geographic- appropriate Regional TV News- coverage than today. For northern Cumbrians there would be no ITV1 Border Lookaround and they would either end up with news from Media City, Salford- mainly about Manchester and Merseyside or, if they remained with BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) with the Newcastle-upon-Tyne based BBC1 Look North in turn amalgamated with the BBC1 Regions based in Leeds and Hull – to make one large BBC North Region folk in the Carlisle area and West Cumbria might get news about Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, and Lincolnshire (i.e., “Here is your Local BBC News“..from 200 miles away!“). Were such a ghastly scenario to come to pass, North Cumbrians might consider trying to get BBC1 Reporting Scotland since news about Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling might be more local!

Rather alarmingly, the first sign of something like this awful scenario with amalgamated (and lost) localised Regional TV actually coming to pass in northern North West England has been crystallised by the news of the BBC making cuts to its Regional TV and BBC Local Radio services to save money- in the face of recession, rising Inflation and tough economic conditions as we head towards the 2022-2023 Winter. The BBC have just confirmed two Regional TV services- in the Oxford area and in Cambridgeshire will be axed by Christmas (details here to find out more https://rxtvinfo.com/2022/confirmed-two-bbc-tv-regions-to-close-within-weeks). There will also be sweeping cuts to BBC Local Radio services, including to BBC Radio Lancashire and BBC Radio Cumbria (details here: https://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/news/radio-news/2022/10/bbc-regional-staff-brace-sweeping-cuts-across-north).

Now, this Website make a case for the merging of some Regional TV News-services across Northern England and creating a couple of others to provide news-coverage that better reflects local cultural and social ties, i.e., that northern Greater Manchester and Central Lancashire would be happy sharing a single BBC Radio Lancashire and Manchester service, whilst Cumbria and northern Lancashire would be well-served by a BBC Radio North West service. I also made the point that this could be done, with some regional tie-up’s earlier in evenings, with a view to raising money to pay for a new BBC1 North West TV Region for Lancashire and Cumbria only, where news can be watched and focussed on (you can find this article here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2022/10/15/is-there-scope-to-cut-bbc-local-radio-to-fund-more-localised-regional-tv-in-northern-north-west-england/). However, the scale of the cuts outlined by the BBC in its most recent cost-cutting round will actually do real harm to the provision of BBC Local Radio and BBC Regional TV.

BBC1 Regional TV Regions are too large to provide good all-round local news-coverage as it is, particularly in Northern England and Scotland. The BBC should be required to direct additional funding to Regional TV, underpinned by legislation, and to make more BBC TV Regions for sizeable areas that fall through the cracks in coverage with the existing BBC1 and ITV1 TV Regions. If the BBC are even considering making cuts- and they actively plan to- someone from on high needs to come down on the BBC Management like a ton of bricks with one loud “NO! Don’t you dare!“.

I am not at all sure that the Government realises what is at stake if the BBC is allowed to merge and mothball BBC1 Regions. This has to be stopped in it’s tracks ASAP because if the BBC are today allowed to cut BBC1 Look East (Cambridge) and BBC1 South Today (Oxford), then next year it could be BBC1 North West TV merged with North Wales (whilst BBC West (Bristol) TV is merged with South Wales). Once the BBC are allowed to get off on the idea that, when push comes to shove, they can mothball and cut Local and Regional TV services there’s no saying where the process will end! Primary legislation needs to make it’s way through Parliament to not only stop these cuts but to require the BBC to spend a higher proportion of its revenue on providing high-quality local news and current affairs relevant to all it’s viewers. If the BBC needs to find savings, it can cut programmes that a plethora of commercial outlets provide in 2022- Sports, Soaps, Films, etc: They should actually increase the provision of Local and Regional News and good documentaries, which is the main justification for the TV Licence fee (and underpinned by the BBC Charter) and should not dare to cut it!

The BBC should be made to realise that the provision of Regional TV News that is local and relevant, helping folk to stay informed of local developments in real time (in order that they can make informed decisions) is a Public- service for which funding requirements for it should be mandated! On the other hand, Soaps, Films, Comedy and Sports-coverage is strictly for leisure (and other private outlets also provide it), that stuff is not, therefore, a Public- service any more than restaurants or Casino bars are Public services (those are for leisure only): With limited resources, the priority must be for funding for Regional TV and high quality National News, Weather-forecasts and documentaries- as the BBC Charter primarily requires of it. If funding is tight- because the TV Licence fee is frozen until 2027- and cuts have to be made it follows that the BBC should cut the “non Public Service” stuff- i.e., Westerns, Comedy and Soaps!

People should be up in arms! Regional TV is a vital Public service, with folk informed in real time of happenings that directly impact on their lives. It is a vital Public Service inasmuch as local Public Libraries are- and could you imagine the outcry if Lancashire County Council are required to save money and they decide to close Lancaster Library and Morecambe Library to achieve this! In the first instance, I would urge anyone reading this to write to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) at 100 Parliament St, London SW1A 2BQ: Write and mark your letter URGENT and F.A.O. the Secretary of State for the DCMS (who is currently The Right Hon. Michelle Donelan, MP). This is serious and the BBC cannot be allowed get off with the idea that this is at all acceptable.

Do write to your local MP, whose address will always be House of Commons, London. SW1A 0AA, whoever your MP is. And because this is serious enough to warrant political pressure on the Government you can also write to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that meets in the House of Commons. The address is DCMS Select Committee, House of Commons, London. SW1A 0AA: Write, and get your friends and family to write in too, marking the letter URGENT. The cuts to Regional TV cannot be permitted to proceed in any way, shape or form as this is the thin end of a very perilous wedge for BBC1 Regional TV!

This Campaign for better Regional TV in Cumbria and Lancashire will be keeping a very keen eye on these developments, and will encourage all and any viewers in NorthWest England to fight for their Regional TV News- services tooth and nail!

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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