11th January 2023
The New Year, 2023 starts with some signs of promise from our Regional TV broadcast media in North West England, with signs that both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports are actually covering all of North West England better. However, one always has to be a bit wary of such promising developments, as these have happened before only to be followed by weeks with a moratorium on any coverage North of Preston!
This evening, I watched both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports and I was pleasantly surprised that this evening’s news- bulletins from both the mainstream North West England Regional TV News- providers covered northern parts of North West England. BBC1 North West Tonight covered South Cumbria, along with Lancashire in connection with the one-day strike by North West Ambulance Service and there was also a report on the outbreak of bird flu at the chicken factory at Langwathby, near Penrith in the Eden Valley: Langwathby is some 25 miles north of the northward limit of BBC North West’s transmission area and it is, of course, encouraging to note that news-programmers at BBC North West are reporting on happenings in more northerly parts of Cumbria for the benefit of their South Cumbrian viewers. There was also a news-report on a teachers’ strike on the Isle of Man and the provision of specialist teachers for deaf children- featuring a family from Burnley on BBC1 North West Tonight. One felt that the entirety of geographical North West England- from the Scottish Border to Cheshire was covered.
However, it was in viewing ITV1 Granada Reports that one got a pleasant surprise for a change, because the programme not only covered the Isle of Man teacher’s strike in quite some detail but it also had a feature on poverty and the need for folk to turn to food banks in the South Lakes- and Kendal and Windermere both got a mention. Alas, that was the only coverage that got North of the M62 corridor on ITV1 Granada Reports, but it is noteable that the programme covered Cumbria. That’s not all, because since Christmas ITV1 Granada Reports has also covered the fall-out- in Barrow-in-Furness- from a woman who lived in the South Cumbrian town who made false allegations of rape. The programme has also covered ill- prepared folk needing rescuing from the Lake District fells. This is after ITV Granada Reports had barely mentioned Cumbria in news-coverage since the summer!
It is possible that programmers for both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports have had feedback from their most northerly viewers who got a bit fed up with the Greater Manchester/ Merseyside- dominated news-coverage: South Cumbrian and even North Lancastrian viewers may have threatened to switch over to ITV1 Border’s Lookaround to get more Cumbrian news- and telling broadcasters that this is what they will do- unless they got North of Preston a bit more! If something like this has happened and word got around, then all well and good, because good local and Regional TV news-coverage for a viewer in Carnforth will be different to what is good local and Regional TV news-coverage for a viewer in Crosby on Merseyside! It is time viewers in the northern 65% of geographical North West England and indeed on the Isle of Man received local and regional news-programming that is fit for those areas.
However, we have been here before when there has been a week of promise, with daily news-reports about Cumbria and also northern Lancashire on BBC1 North West Tonight, which has been followed by two or more weeks with nothing about places north of Preston. Occasions when ITV1 Granada Reports covers any part of Cumbria remain very rare despite the reports about Cumbria in recent days. It is too soon to celebrate and put out the bunting yet: If there is to be a permanent long-term change towards much-improved Regional News-coverage for viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria it will have to be fought for. If the North Cumbrian campaign to get BBC1 Look North (from Newcastle) back after the BBC put North Cumbria in the BBC1 North West (Manchester) transmission area in the 1980’s is anything to go by it might take five years of campaigning, with letters to local newspapers, letters to local MPs and rallies outside Media City to get either BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports to commit resources to really improving Regional TV for northern North West England and the Isle of Man. From my own experiences, and those of others who have written in to the North West Regional TV News- services in the past, it will take a lot more than a few e-mails and letters to bring about real and lasting change!
Almost one million people live in Lancashire north of the River Ribble and in South Cumbria: For this sizeable geographic area geographically local and relevant news is that about Lancashire and Cumbria with some news about the western Yorkshire Dales, it would be much less Greater Manchester and Merseyside. For the almost 85,000 souls living on the Isle of Man, geographically local and relevant news will be about the Isle of Man- nowhere else. Viewers in South Cumbria, northern Lancashire and on the Isle of Man are a long way from getting news tailored to their areas: Indeed, in an era when the BBC has just axed two BBC1 Regional News-services in the southern half of the country on cost grounds- it is likely to be necessary for big political pressure with legislation passed to define good local and Regional TV as a Public Service with mandatory minimum levels of funding and air-time provision per 1,000 square miles- before the BBC management consider reinstating the axed BBC1 TV Regions in the South of England, let alone creating new BBC1 Regions for Lancashire/ Cumbria and for the Isle of Man!