Two News- features about Cumbria on BBC North West Tonight. As Always, better than ITV Granada Reports.

13th January 2023

(Updated 15th January 2023)

Dear Readers

This evening, there was another suggestion that BBC1 North West News-programmers might be upping their game in terms of the proportion of coverage they provide North of Preston. This evening’s North West Tonight, presented by the friendly, outgoing Annabel Tiffin, provided two in-depth news-features about Cumbria: The first news- feature was about the mental health of farmers in rural areas, with a farmer near the village of Ravenstonedale being featured. Ravenstonedale is nine miles from Kirkby Stephen and just to the north of the BBC North West transmission area in south-east Cumbria. The second news-feature was of a Derbyshire man creating a lego model of the Lake District and, although not news per-se, Keswick featured in the North West Tonight Weather- forecast. Blackpool also featured in the news, as too did a man who jumped into the River Ribble near Preston to evade the Police!


If programmers at BBC North West are coming round to the principle that a Regional News programme advertising as covering North West England called North West Tonight should cover all of North West England to provide regional identity that is to be commended. If those same Programmers realise that North West England includes all areas west of the Pennines between the Scottish Border to the north and the Midlands and Welsh Border to the south, and including those parts of Cumbria north of the BBC North West transmission area, then they make sure all these areas are covered for the benefit of their more northerly viewers then that is really good news. For a viewer of Regional TV who lives in Lancaster or Garstang, the Regional area of interest extends from Carlisle to North Manchester- including places that are an hour’s travel time away or less. For viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria and there will be a much greater interest in (and need to be informed about) happenings in Lancashire and Cumbria, and if programmers for BBC1 North West Tonight realise this, then that is so well and good.

Time will tell whether the Regional TV services serving North West England are finally waking up to the need to cover more northerly parts of North West England better. ITV1 Granada Reports did cover Lancaster but not any part of Cumbria this evening. In spite of some news-features about Cumbria over the last fortnight it remains the case that ITV1 Granada Reports seldom gets North of Preston and covers Cumbria very rarely. To that end this Website would advise any viewer of Regional TV who lives in North West England and who wants more geographic-appropriate Regional TV coverage- to watch BBC1 North West Tonight rather than ITV1 Granada Reports if they live North of the M62 Corridor.

Despite the promise of more geographic-appropriate Regional and Local News-coverage from BBC1 North West Tonight for viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria (especially over recent days) there remains the need for the Back-stop of a Regional TV news-service that covers Cumbria extremely well that is accessible to many viewers in Lancaster, Morecambe, the Lune Valley and South Cumbria, namely ITV Border’s Lookaround: There were no less than five detailed news-features covering Cumbria covering everything from hospices for the terminally ill to radioactive waste storage proposals to an outbreak of bird flu at a chicken factory in ITV Border Lookaround this evening. News about places just over the Scottish Border- including Dumfries Burn’s Night celebrations (places that, may I add, are really no less accessible from North Lancashire than South Cheshire or the Peak District that sometimes feature in ITV Granada Reports) was much in the minority in tonight’s Lookaround.

Viewers in North Lancashire and South Cumbria should make use of the fact that they can get ITV1 Border’s Lookaround to keep the pressure on news- producers for BBC1 North West Tonight: Then these news-producers become increasingly aware that viewers of Regional TV who live in more northerly parts of North West England can seek out other news-outlets and shop around if their needs are not met. If enough viewers, who live in towns like Morecambe, Carnforth, Kirkby Lonsdale and Grange-over-Sands become aware of this, and that they have the power to watch whichever combination of local and Regional TV News- services suits them that will put pressure on North West Regional TV producers to provide viewers in the northern North West of England with what they need.

The presence of ITV1 Border Lookaround, an ITV1 Regional TV News-service that is the default for most of Cumbria along with southern south-west Scotland and the Scottish Borders, along with the ability of viewers who live in other parts of South Cumbria and in parts of North Lancashire to get it could help anchor programmers at BBC1 North West: That is, it encourages programmers to cover more northerly parts of North West England regularly. At least that would be the case were enough viewers in northern North West England to avail themselves of ITV1 Border Lookaround and realise for themselves the power of tolerating a bit of southern Scottish news to find out what is happening north of them.

Of course, ITV Border’s Lookaround is not the ideal for northern Lancashire, an ideal Regional TV News-service for North Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man does not exist: Hence the reason for this Website! I would not expect viewers in places like Fleetwood and Garstang to switch over to a Regional TV News-service from which the centre of gravity of the news-coverage is at least as far in terms of travel-time, only to the north rather than to the south. However, what is possible is for viewers to watch a combination of different Regional TV services (again not an ideal situation) in order to get themselves the best possible local and all-round Regional News-coverage, north as well as south. Viewers can watch a combination of other news-services, i.e., That’s TV Lancashire (Freeview Channel 7 at followed by ITV Border’s Lookaround (via the Internet from onwards, if one cannot get it on their telly), or BBC1 North West Tonight then (later via the Internet) ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. This is something that viewers can do to get themselves a higher number of news- stories relevant to their locales each night, it is credible way that viewers can hold keep News-programmers at Media City, Salford honest and loyal to all viewers across northern North West England. The strategy of watching different combinations of Regional TV News-services to glean out the best possible all-round local news-coverage is a means to an end- to finally obtain that excellent Regional TV News-service for northern Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man- not an end in itself.

If BBC1 North West Tonight are doing well and are providing two or three news-items about Cumbria and northern Lancashire programmers must still be discouraged from “Back-sliding” into providing just Manchester/ Liverpool/ South Lancashire coverage in future (possibly under-pressure from the over five million viewers in the south of the English North West). With regards to BBC North West, there is also the possibility that programmers for BBC1 NE/ Cumbria might say “Stay off Our Patch or We’ll Take You to Court!”, should BBC North West report on happeings in northern Cumbria more frequently: Were that to happen BBC1 North West Tonight would reduce their Cumbrian coverage and no longer cover anything at all northwards of their transmission area and Regional TV producers might retreat into their safe Greater Manchester/ Merseyside/ Cheshire Comfort Zone! That would then be of detriment to viewers who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire who would get less all-round local news-coverage.

I am not privy to the arrangements between the Programmers of different BBC1 Regions, but I would be surprised if there is not some BBC rule (enforced by a threat of legal action and fines) that news- journalists and reporters stick to news only within the BBC1 Regions in which they serve to an extent that precludes some (otherwise beneficial) overlap coverage for viewers living close to transmission boundares between different TV Regions. I put it out there that this is something that affects BBC1 North West Tonight’s reporters when they cover Cumbria. It also follows that, in order to ensure continued and permanent better all-round Regional TV across much of northern North West England, the factors that push Programmers for both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports into providing poor effective all-round news-coverage for locations North of the Ribble need to be overcome.

In other words, if programmers at Media City, Salford are being threatened with legal action for providing news-coverage of Cumbria, programmers at BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports need to fear the permanent loss of potentially one million viewers from northern Lancashire and South Cumbria, a financial travesty worse than any multi-million Pound fine from any High Court Judges, rather more: Suffice to say, were this Website to become privy to any legal action aimed at discouraging news-reporters from a North West England- based Regional TV News-service from covering Cumbria, then this Website would get involved in persuading judges to throw the case out of Court for the benefit of South Cumbria viewers who can only receive ITV1 Granada Reports or BBC1 North West Tonight on their tellies! It is vital that the balance of financial incentives/ risks is shifted in the minds of reporters for BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to favouring better coverage of areas North of Preston.

Now, if the one milion viewers who live North of the River Ribble would realise it, they have more choices in terms of what is at least “tolerably local” to them to put greater pressure on Regional TV producers, than do those viewers who live in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire. Viewers in northern Lancashire and in South Cumbria could grasp that the credible threat that they could assert to Regional TV programmers based in North West England- that of switching to ITV Border’s Lookaround (and/ or That’s TV Lancashire) can be used as a “Sword of Damocles” over the heads of Regional TV Producers based at Media City on Salford Quays. Thus the one million viewers who live North of the Ribble have greater leverage and could use an ability (or willingness) to seek out alternatives to exert as much- or more- pressure on Regional TV Producers based at Media City, Salford Quays than the over five million viewers who live further south -plus any news-Producers of neighbouring ITV/ BBC1 TV Regions who get narky and shout “Stay off our Patch“!

It would indeed be naĆ­ve to suppose that BBC1 North West Tonight will not have news-droughts concerning happenings North of Preston in future (there has been times with more coverage north of Preston before, which have then petered out). At such times viewers will need to remind Programmers for BBC1 North West Tonight that their areas are being neglected and to let them know that there are credible alternatives Regional News outlets for finding out what is happening locally northwards of their communities. The e-mail address for BBC1 North West Tonight for when those times come back is:

For ITV1 Granada Reports‘ producers they really need a viewer shock: If all viewers who lived north of the M62 Corridor switched over to BBC1 North West Tonight (and they only watched that) ITV1 Granada Reports would lose almost 50% of it’s viewers overnight! That is something that needs to happen because ITV1 Granada Reports is great for Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire but totally inadequate as a geographic-appropriate Regional TV News- service for viewers North of Preston. That might start a serious discussion amongst ITV1 Regional TV Producers in North West England about opt-outs for northern Lancashire and South Cumbria- or even the wholesale transfer of the area north of Preston into the ITV1 Border transmission area (a transmission area with a small fraction of the population of the ITV1 Granada transmission area, I may add, so North Lancashire and South Cumbria would get much better local news-coverage).

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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