31st January 2023
A few weeks ago this Website featured an article congratulating BBC1 North West Tonight for showing signs of covering all of North West England, including into northern Cumbria. This article made the point that this would be great if this signified a long- term improvement in news-coverage for locations northwards of Preston, but added the caveat that there have been such “false dawns” before. That is, there has been a few days with a news-item about Cumbria each night, along with a good few about Lancashire, but that then has followed two or three weeks with almost no news-coverage northwards of Preston (read this here: https://northwestisnorthwest.org/2023/01/13/two-news-features-about-cumbria-on-bbc-north-west-tonight-as-always-better-than-itv-granada-reports/).
And so it has proved again! Over the last few days the most northerly item of coverage on both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports has been about a missing woman from St. Michaels on Wyre, a picturesue village on the River Wyre about five miles south-west of Garstang and eleven miles east of Blackpool. In other words, the Regional TV news has not got much north of Preston! At least both Regional TV News- services have- just- ventured into northern Lancashire but that was the most northerly news-item by thirty miles on both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports.
It is good that both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports have reported on the fear and possible loss affecting this small rural northern Lancashire community and, for a rare change, it was ITV1 Granada Reports that provided the best coverage of this rather worried community this evening. Tonight (31st January) Roger Johnson, the BBC1 North West Tonight main reporter was this evening decamped to the Liverpool Euro-vision festival and BBC1 North West Tonight was 50% about that, and a further 15% about the ongoing Hillsborough inquests (which involved Liverpool Football Club from way back in 1989). One suspects that, notwithstanding the good coverage of the missing local dog-walker, that the good folk of St. Michaels on Wyre are rather peeved off with the lack of coverage of happenings locally and to the north of where they live whilst Liverpool and Manchester (an hour away or slightly more by car) get the lion’s share of news-coverage.
We have been here before: A long-term improvement in North West Regional TV, either of BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports, for viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria would mean more than a few days with a couple of nightly reports about Cumbria- especially when this is followed with no coverage of Cumbria and one news-item (if viewers are lucky) getting North of the River Ribble. There needs to be a concerted recognition that almost one million inhabitants who live in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria, over fifty miles north of Liverpool need better, tailor-made Regional TV coverage for their communities. That will involve an effort to include nightly coverage of Cumbria and northern Lancashire, or the putting of resources into opt-outs for northern North West England.
Unfortunately, this will never ever happen whilst Barrow-in-Furness, Carnforth, Ulverston, Garstang, Fleetwood and (yes) as far south as St. Michaels on Wyre are getting the same Regional TV programming as over five million potential viewers in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region from both BBC1 and ITV1. The reason for that is that viewers in Cheshire, in South Manchester and Liverpool will start to complain if their areas are not covered well, letters and e-mails would certainly go in and, because most viewers live in the populous south of North West England Regional TV producers will be under pressure to maintain the lion’s share of coverage for the metropolitan areas. That said, folk living in towns just a bit further north (like Wigan and Bolton) would reasonably expect North West Regional TV to cover more than just Manchester, Liverpool and the Wirral and to include the Lakes (which folk from there may visit on a fine day) in news-coverage.
As has been mentioned before on this Website, the only way viewers of Regional TV who live in St. Michael’s on Wyre, Garstang, Morecambe, Carnforth or Kirkby Lonsdale are going to get much more Cumbrian and North Lancastrian news night after night is for folk living in those areas to campaign -to be moved from a TV Region that has seven million inhabitants that really does not include most of Cumbria into a TV Region that would have just 1.5 million inhabitants (with northern Lancashire added) and which also covers all of Cumbria (and in which Cumbria accounts for 50 to 55% coverage without North Lancashire). A strong vocal campaign for North Lancashire to be transferred from the ITV1 Granada transmission region to the ITV1 Border transmission region on the grounds that “We live in North West England but North Lancashire and coastal South Cumbria has stronger links to the Lakes than to Liverpool and Manchester: Change Our Regional News!” is just what is needed!
Viewers in North Lancashire need to hold that line in the face of warnings of “But you will get News about Scotland!” from North West Regional TV Programmers who might try to discourage viewers and persuade them to stick with the service that they know (however poor): The truth is ITV1 Border’s Lookaround has no more than about 45% coverage about (mainly south-west) Scotland, and of places that are just over the Scottish Border, in communities that are no less local (in terms of travel-time) to Morecambe or Carnforth than is the Isle of Man, the Peak District or South Cheshire that get covered in ITV1 Granada Reports. What North Lancastrian viewers would gain is more than what they would lose, and this Website will continue to educate North Lancastrians of the relative localness- to them- of what is reported on ITV1 Border compared to ITV1 Granada. Then they can speak up and campaign for change without fear of the overall implications of that change! Viewers of Regional TV such realise that they have nothing to fear but fear itself, and to realise that Regional TV providers provide the service they do to communities because they think that they can get away with it.
It is only when ITV1, and BBC1 for that matter are faced with a myriad folk campaigning for their Regional TV to change, to be put in another TV Region that might serve their area better that programmers for ITV1 Granada Reports are really going to take note: They will understand that viewers from north of Preston are really not happy with the North West England Regional TV coverage that they receive, and the motivation will be the potential loss of advertising revenue from losing viewers. There is no reason why programmers at BBC1 North West Tonight should not also be made abreast of such a campaign, and for viewers to write in to explain why they are campaigning to get ITV1 Border’s Lookaround rather than ITV1 Granada Reports.
Unfortunately, as shown from the news-coverage from this past week, and other weeks following a few days’ Cumbrian promise (and there have been numerous of these); if folk in Lancaster, Morecambe, St Michael’s on Wyre, Garstang, Fleetwood and Barrow-in-Furness are to get much better geographic-appropriate North West Regional TV News are to get better, more localised, Regional TV they need to fight hard for it. But it can be done- just ask viewers in Carlisle, in North Cumbria- who fought against getting Manchester-dominated news from BBC1 North West Tonight for five years before they got BBC1 Look North from Newcastle back. They deployed a similar powerful argument, i.e.- “North Cumbria has more links with Newcastle and Northumberland- which is Much Closer than Manchester! Change Our News!“. That, and with thousands of campaigning North Cumbrian’s the BBC finally caved in 1991- and North Cumbria got BBC1 Look North from Newcastle-upon-Tyne back.