16th February 2023
The sad disappearance of Nicola Bulley, who lived in St Michael’s-on-Wyre continues to make headlines on both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports: Rarely has both of the two mainstream Regional TV News- services for North West England provided at least 20% of their air-time to coverage North of Preston, albeit only just so. But this evening, Thursday 16th Februry 2023, as with a number of the main North West Regional TV news-bulletins, the coverage of the worrying developments at St. Michael’s-on-Wyre has been the most northerly news-item with either BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports.
All that said, at least last night Roger Johnson, the main news-reader on BBC1 North West Tonight touched upon two Cumbrian news-items (happenings in Maryport and Sellafield, in West Cumbria just northwards of the transmission boundary too) in the short “Other News You Can Find Out Online” section. Four other news-features covered Lancashire last night- one again covering Nicola Bulley from St Michael’s-on-Wyre, another covering a mosque to be built in Preston, and coverage of Blackpool and Burnley. The fact remains that BBC1 North West Tonight covers areas north of the M62 better than ITV1 Granada Reports (which very rarely covers even South Cumbria).
However, it continues to be the case that viewers of Regional TV in either North Lancashire or South Cumbria are poorly covered in terms of geographic- appropriate news. Whilst these areas are indeed in North West England, a predominance of news-coverage from Greater Manchester or the Liverpool City Region with little local coverage and almost nothing about happenings within an hour’s travel time north of them is far from ideal for a sizeable geographic area home to almost one million inhabitants.
Rather better all-round geographical representation in news-coverage could be gained- even as far south as St. Michael’s-on-Wyre by sticking with BBC1 North West Tonight but switching over to ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. Even tonight, dominated as it was by the resignation of the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and with three extensive news-features on how this affects Southern Scotland, three of a total of eight news-items were about Cumbria, one of these being an extensive news- feature about a young man from Rochdale who drowned in Ullswater (coverage that might be considered appropriate to a wide Lancastrian audience). A fourth news-item covered charitable relief efforts centred on Dumfries (just over the Scottish Border) for the victims of the terrible earthquake in south-east Turkey/ northern Syria, although the fact that communities in Cumbria were involved in the relief effort got a mention in that report too!
Once one gets ss far south as the Fylde Plain, viewers might be disinclined to get ITV Border Lookaround in lieu of ITV1 Granada Reports on the grounds of there being “Scottish coverage”: The truth is the Scottish coverage is mainly about places just over the Scottish Border and almost always over 50% of the coverage is about Cumbria. In terms of travel time, locations just over the Scottish Border, like Annan or Dumfries are a bit more accessible to northern Lancashire than South Cheshire, or indeed North Wales (which got a mention in BBC1 North West Tonight this evening!): For instance, travel from Garstang to Lockerbie- bus to Lancaster, then train from Lancaster to Lockerbie can be achieved in just two hours and seven minutes, but it would take two hours and 20 minutes to travel from Garstang to Macclesfield using similar methods of transport. Communities northwards of Preston also have strong links with the Lake District, which is closer to somewhere like Garstang than is Manchester or Liverpool. In other words, once one gets northwards of Preston, Cumbria and the Scottish Border becomes “More Local” than Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire and the Welsh Border, thus it begins to make more sense to have Regional News about Cumbria and the Scottish Border rather than Merseyside and Cheshire.
It is, of course, a poor state of affairs that folk living in towns like Garstang or Fleetwood have to choose between getting news mainly about the M62 Corridor and Cheshire (with just a couple of news-items about Lancashire) or, alternatively, getting news that is to a significant extent about places near the Scottish Border but with some news about the Lake District (but with no Lancashire news): This is precisely why this Website was set up, to campaign for a Regional TV News-service that is recognisably North West England, but which is about Lancashire and Cumbria- rather than Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City area most of the time! An area that is home to almost one million people, where almost all folk live fifty or more miles from the main metropolitan areas of Greater Manchester and Merseyside certainly deserves its own Regional TV News-service.
Writing e-mails and letters to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports alone is unlikely to bring about real, lasting change for the better. After all Regional TV producers are just not going to sacrifice the local news interests of five million inhabitants who live in Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and Cheshire for the near one million who live in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria: Believe me, I’ve been there and tried that!! If change is to be achieved a concerted campaign is required with viewers prepared to boycott at least ITV1 Granada Reports in lieu of programming that covers areas further north. Viewers on the Fylde can get- and watch- instead That’s TV Lancashire (Freeview Channel 7, that’s if viewers have Freeview), it is ten minutes of news just about Lancashire. Then viewers on the Fylde Plain and towards Blackpool can boycott both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports. For maximum effect, viewers will need to encourage friends and family locally to do likewise and to write to news broadcasters at both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to explain why they are doing this. Viewers also need to be clear that they won’t relent and return to whichever of the mainstream North West Regional TV News- services provides bespoke opt-out news-coverage for places north of Preston and to be clear that must include overlap coverage across Cumbria.
Regional TV is also a vital Public service, folk need to be informed about happenings in their own area and in the places that they frequent, so that they can make informed choices for their benefit: Broadcasters (particularly public broadcasters like the BBC) should be mandated to spend a higher proportion of their revenues on providing relevant and local news for all viewers. There needs to be a discussion about providing broadcasters with the tools they need- to raise funds via getting sponsorship from local businesses, advertising, product placement, local raffles or lotteries, and subscription- so that more localised news-coverage can be provided. Thus viewers need to write to their local MPs- en masse- and to write to the Select Committee for the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) at the House of Commons. This really needs to happen because TV broadcasters are not in the mood to increase spending on Regional TV in the current economic climate- but rather have been minded to cut spending: The BBC just abolished- and merged with neighbouring BBC1 Regions- two BBC1 Regions in the southern half of England before Christmas!! Political pressure needs to be increased to the extent that the BBC is minded to reinstate those BBC1 Regions and add others in the North of England: Then, and only then will South Cumbria and North Lancashire stop being short- changed in Regional TV bulletins.