17th February 2023
We are into one of those periods- lasting a week or more- during which both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports together seem to draw a red line from east to west across North West England, roughly from Fleetwood to Barnoldswick: It would seem that they agree, between themselves, that they will not provide news-coverage north of that line for a specified period.
Quite why this happens at times is a mystery, though I have a suspicion that a couple of factors may come in to play. Firstly, there may be a desire among broadcasters to provide “Pure Greater Manchester, Merseyside and South Lancastria“- So that the 80% of viewers in the North West Regional TV transmission areas who live in those areas in the South of North West England get unadulterated really local news. After all, it’s important to keep the Great Majority of Viewers pleased and on-side, even if this is at the expense of the almost one million folk who live northwards of Preston (who have to put up with several episodes a year lasting a week or more with especially geographically- inappropriate Regional TV- even more so than usual). Perhaps they just have to put up with it! That sort of attitude is quite unacceptable to viewers who live North of Preston.
Viewers do, however, have a simple recourse to sway the considerations of North West Regional TV programmers who determine to side with the Urban Majority against the more Northerly Minority- for fear of losing viewers (and thus money): It’s called the threat of being boycotted by the smaller northern number who- if they are organised together- can pack a punch. Firstly viewers should write to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to demand better coverage of Lancashire and Cumbria- on the grounds, for instance, that viewers from Carnforth or Knott-End-on-Sea have little interest in goings-on in Birkenhead or Stockport but want to know about Morecambe Bay and the Lake District. This demand should be backed up by the promise to seek out alternative news-sources for geographic-appropriate news-coverage. If the demands are not met then viewers in the northern North West of England should switch over to That’s TV Lancashire (Freeview Channel 7 at 6.pm), ITV Border’s Lookaround or LancsLive (detals here: https://www.lancs.live/)- or whatever combination of these local websites or Regional TV news-services that are best for all-round coverage. Viewers should then deliver on their threat to boycott the mainstream North West England Regional TV News-services and shop around for a mix of these alternatives that provides best local news-coverage. If enough North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians do this, the mainstream North West Regional TV News- producers would change their mind about which side their bread is buttered and discover that is the viewers in the north of their transmission area that have more choice over what different Regional TV services that they can find!
It is viewers in the urban South of North West England that have much more limited options compared to the very good coverage that they have now with regards Regional TV: Is any significant portion of the five million Mancunians/ Liverpudlians and Chestonians really going to switch over to BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) and ITV1 News Calendar -North (covering West and South Yorkshire and southern Yorkshire Dales and never getting west of the Pennines) if they just get 60% coverage of Greater Manchester/ Merseyside/ Cheshire rather than 80% coverage of Greater Manchester/ Merseyside/ Cheshire? Of course they won’t, why would they totally denude themselves of good local news- coverage just to make a point?
If the truth be known, viewers who live in the north of Greater Manchester- in towns like Rochdale, Bolton and Wigan- consider themselves Lancastrian rather than Mancunian and they expect from their North West Regional TV a bit more than just news about Manchester, Salford, Warrington and Merseyside: These areas are just an hour by car from the southern end of the Lake District and folk from northern Greater Manchester visit the Lake District in the summer, thus they are more likely to welcome some coverage of Cumbria and Lancashire! If, for instance BBC1 North West Tonight programmers decided that from now on that there will be at least one news-feature about Cumbria and at least one news-feature about northern Lancashire in every major bulletin it is very unlikely that a mass turning-off of BBC1 North West Tonight will ensue- rather something of the opposite with more viewers tuning in is more likely.
A second reason why programmers at both ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight may synchronise a retreat from any coverage of happenings northwards of Preston for a week or more might be the fear of “Certain Consequences” for encroaching on, or merely of being suspected of encroaching on, the neighbouring counterpart Regional TV transmission areas to the North, namely those of ITV1 Border Lookaround and BBC1 Look North (NE/Cumbria) Regional TV News-services respectively. These are transmitted to all of Cumbria but the southern coastal areas, and the northern two-thirds of Cumbria respectively. Do Programmers at BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports fear being slapped with massive fines to pay to their more northerly counterparts if they cover just a couple of items in Cumbria (perhaps for the benefit of their more northerly viewers)? And so do Programmers for BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports feel they have to back off and play “Very Safe” by not covering anything North of Preston for a week or more?
Surely it is the Courts only who have the power to impose fines, and surely the judges dealing with such cases realise that viewers in South Cumbria and North Lancashire wish to know about significant happenings just an hour’s drive to the north in places that are still part of North West England: If any judges dealing with complaints by BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) against BBC1 North West Tonight over the latter covering Cumbria ever happen to read this, I would sincerely urge you, Your Honours, to rule in the interests of viewers who live in North Lancashire and South Cumbria (and who really can only readily get BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports), who want to know what is happening in northern Cumbria, less than an hour’s drive away! Should BBC and ITV.Plc bosses withhold funds from BBC North West and/ or ITV1 Granada Reports respectively (i.e., impose an effective fine) on the basis of their covering Cumbria, then then the North West Regional TV producers should have legal recourse to make the respective BBC and ITV.Plc headquarters in London pay up on the grounds of the Public interest of viewers of Regional TV who live in northern North West England.
For the record, if this Website ever finds out anything like Roger Johnson, the main reporter for BBC1 North West Tonight, being told by Mark McAlindon (the BBC1 Reporter for Cumbria who normally reports for BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria)) something like “Stay off our Patch!” I will encourage viewers in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire to write to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to get them to make BBC1 NE/ Cumbria back off in the interest of viewers of BBC1 North West Tonight who live in northern North West England, and who might be rather more interested in what is happening in Cumbria! For the record, BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) provides a reasonable news-service for viewers in the urban North East of England and close to the Durham/ Northumberland and Cumbria borders, but neighbouring TV Regions should not complain and get threatening if a Regional TV News-service reports on something just over the transmission boundary for the benefit of viewers living near the edge of that transmission boundary: That really is not acceptable!
Whatever the reasons, it is the almost one million inhabitants who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire who suffer poor all-round or local coverage whenever both BBC North West and ITV1 Granada have a moratorium on news-coverage northwards of Preston (the extensive coverage of Nicola Bulley being the sole Lancashire exception). This will keep happening until a sufficient number of viewers who live northwards of Preston stand up to say “This is unacceptable as a Regional TV News-service for our Communities!“, and then put pressure upon the North West’s Regional TV News- producers for major improvement. This requires more than just writing e-mails to BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports. It will require writing to MPs, to the DCMS to put pressure on BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports and it will need viewers in northern North West England to campaign effectively for better Regional TV and to boycott both mainstream North West Regional TV News-providers in lieu of other local news sources that are credible (or at least tolerable for long enough) so as to put pressure on the mainstream Regional TV News- providers in North West England. It will probably involve political pressure- with pressure especially upon the BBC to stop cutting Regional TV budgets!
I am not a Socialist and I do not think tax-payers should be taxed more to pay for better Regional TV services (News- providers do need to be able to report on Local and National Government issues without fear or favour, and they cannot do this if they depend on Government money). However, there is a strong need to give the BBC- and ITV.Plc- other local fund-raising freedoms (i.e., product placement, local lotteries, etc.) so that both the BBC and ITV.Plc can be mandated to put more money into funding more, and better resourced, Regional TV services covering more areas more locally. If the TV Licence-fee is to be phased out, it is essential that legislation is passed by the Conservative Government (or Labour, if they get in within the next two years) that provides both BBC1 and ITV.Plc with revenue-raising measures to help plug the shortfall, and even provide extra funds to pay for more local Regional TV services. Subscriptions will certainly need to be part of the mix but providing the BBC with a totally tax-free status (and enshrining this in the BBC Charter in a way that cannot be undone by future Governments), then allowing product placement, local business sponsoring and local Lotteries to fund BBC Regional TV programming only could also be measures to achieve this aim.
The ultimate aim of this Website is for there to be a bespoke BBC1 North West Tonight for northern Lancashire and for South (and probably also West) Cumbria that provides much more geographic-appropriate news-coverage for all those parts of northern North West England. The Isle of Man also needs its own bespoke Isle of Man news-service as it is a small country in its own right.