4th July 2023
It cannot be much fun for some-one who lives in Millom or in Ulverston to turn on their Regional TV in order to get news about their area and the wider North West of England to only be told about what is happening 100 miles or more to the south. Why then, would a viewer continue to watch a Regional TV News- service which is supposed to serve their area and their Region that constantly short- changes their communities and their areas of interest?
If one lives and works in the northern half of North West England, and periodically travels to places that are up to an hour’s travel- time distant (north and east, as well as southwards), but is unlikely to often travel further (as with most folk), it is then unlikely that what happens in Liverpool, South Manchester, the Wirral or Cheshire will be of interest. This is particularly true nowadays when it is seldom absolutely necessary to travel into a big city to buy things (thanks to Amazon, and other outlets for buying specialist stuff online), thus some-one living in (say) Morecambe will rarely actually need to travel to Manchester or Liverpool. The only exceptions might be for visiting family members who are critically injured (who might be transferred to a Manchester or Liverpool hospital for specialist treatment) or for flying out of the country via an airport: If one lives in northern North West England and one goes on holiday abroad there is Blackpool Airport, or even Newcastle-upon-Tyne Airport (which is outside the city)- which have flights to a variety of popular destinations. Rarely will a North Lancastrian or South Cumbrian ever have to actually set foot in central Manchester or Liverpool.
The fact that folk in the northern half of North West England rarely have to travel down to Manchester or Liverpool does weaken the argument that folk who live north of Preston should watch Salford-based Regional TV that is mainly about Manchester and Liverpool on the grounds that these cities are the last-stop centres that provide servies or goods that cannot be found elsewhere in North West England. That may have been true (to a limited extent) in the 1990’s but it is certainly not true today.
This brings us back to the availability and choice of Regional TV for viewers in northern North West England. Viewers today have more choice to shop around, find a combination of local news- services that suit them and change channels than they had in the 1990’s, largely due to the advent of Sky TV, Freeview and the Internet. Yet even 35 years ago, northern Cumbrians were able to put such pressure on the BBC with regards to receiving BBC1 North West Tonight (with news mainly about Manchester and Liverpool) that the BBC changed their plans and northern Cumbria was trasferred back to BBC1 Look North from Newcastle. Today, with access to other BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV News- services than the default provided for the area (via Sky or the Internet) it is easier for communities in the north of North West England to make their displeasure at inappropriate, non-local Regional TV News become felt by Regional News broadcasters quickly and keenly.
If North Cumbrian viewers could pressurise the BBC to change the Regional TV News-service that they provided to North Cumbrians 35 years ago, then North Lancastrians can likewise pressurise the BBC and ITV.plc into providing a better and more geographic- appropriate news-service today. For the last few months both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports have really struggled to get north of Preston, broadcasters for both Regional TV News- services have retreated to their Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Wirral and Cheshire comfort zone. This is unacceptable for a family living near Carnforth or Ulverston from where news about Cumbria, Lancashire and the west of the Yorkshire Dales is the only news that is likely to be regionally or locally relevant. This is still part of North West England and viewers here want their areas and news of interest to them covered in their local news, and broadcasters which are set up to serve North West England as a whole, should take note of this.
Communities across northern Lancashire and South Cumbria (what is now Westmorland and Furness) do have tools at their disposal to rectify the local news- services they receive by stating, in unison “Enough! We want Lancashire and Cumbria news, not Greater Manchester and Liverpool news!“. Then they can call time on geographically-inappropriate news by writing in en-masse to BBC1 North West Tonight and to ITV1 Granada Reports and issuing an ultimatum, i.e. “Provide us with local news or we- as a community- will look elsewhere for our local news and boycott your Program!“. This can even be backed up by organising a rally outside the headquarters of ITV1 Granada Reports in Media City at Salford Quays, and campaigning for the entire area north of Preston to be in the ITV1 Border TV Region rather than the ITV1 Granada Region on the grounds that Cumbria is more local to North Lancashire than Greater Manchester and Liverpool.
This is not something that folk from, say, Garstang or Morecambe should be fearful of doing for fear of getting an even worse Regional TV News- service with news about Scotland. ITV1 Border’s Lookaround provides 50% (or slightly more) coverage of Cumbria, and most of the remainder of the coverage is from just over the Scottish Border into Dumfries and Galloway. It is almost certain that if North Lancashire were transferred into the ITV1 Border TV Region that programmers, who are in charge of both ITV1 Tyne Tees as well as ITV1 Border, would find the resources to cover North Lancashire and South Cumbria together a lot better than either ITV1 Granada Reports or BBC1 North West Tonight covers those areas. It’s more than likely that ITV1 Border would resurrect the Selkirk opt-out to provide 15 minutes of bespoke southern Scottish coverage for viewers in southern Scotland, or that ITV1 Tyne Tees would become ITV1 Tyne Tees & Borders and take over coverage of the Scottish Borders whilst covering Northumberland a bit better. This would free up a bit more air-time for ITV1 Border Lookaround to cover Cumbria and North Lancashire better whilst maintaining coverage of south-west Scotland. The Selkirk transmitter is already used for bespoke ITV1 Border (Scotland) programs such as Representing Border that Cumbrian viewers watching ITV1 Border (England) don’t get: It is therefore not likely to be as expensive as setting up and then running a new opt-out from scratch.
When northern Cumbria was receiving BBC1 Regional TV output from Manchester from 1986 to 1991 there weren’t many folk running around saying “If you get Look North you get no news about Cumbria, but plenty of news about the North Yorkshire coast and Teesside!“: That was, of course strictly true then because BBC1 Look North, based in the North East but not covering Cumbria, did then only provided news about North East England and North Yorkshire. Every North Cumbrian involved in the campaign to get BBC1 Look North back was convinced that Cumbria would be better-covered once it was returned to BBC1 North East’s remit because they had had thirty years before then watching the friendly faces of veteran BBC1 Look North news-broadcasters like Tom Kilgour and Mike Neville telling them about happenings in Carlisle and the northern Lakes, as well as Northumberland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne (to which North Cumbrians have a closer affinity than to more distant Manchester and Liverpool).
On the other hand, North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians south-west from Kendal have never had ITV Border Lookaround, certainly not with ITV1 Border given a remit to cover all South Cumbria and North Lancashire too, so viewers there cannot compare ITV1 Granada Reports or BBC1 North West Tonight to it. The truth is that were all areas northwards from Garstang transferred to ITV1 Border’s remit the entire area will be part of an ITV1 Region with a population of just one million in the entire transmission area (including North Lancashire) instead of an ITV1 Region with a population of seven million (the vast bulk of which live in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire). In addition viewers in North Lancashire will get news about other areas with which they are likely to have a closer regional affiliation than Manchester or Liverpool, such as the Lake District and western Yorkshire Dales (which ITV1 Border’s Lookaround have on occasion covered).
Viewers in places like Blackpool or Fleetwood may be less likely to clamour for ITV1 Border’s Lookaround, but the local area still suffers from being overlooked in North West Regional TV coverage. That’s TV Lancashire, which is aired at 6.pm on week-days on Freeview Channel 7 and the comprehensive Lancs Live website (which has plenty of news- clips) together provide bespoke news-coverage of Lancashire: These provide folk living on the Fylde with the means of effectively boycotting both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports whilst getting more local news in the process. The more folk can do this, and if they can get their whole community involved, so much the better. If you do decide to do this write- in unison- to producers for both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to warn them that this is what you and your friends and family will do if they don’t provide effective local news-coverage. Be prepared to act on the ultimatum, and whilst it may be hard to switch over from BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports at first, one will get used to watching That’s TV Lancashire, with ten minutes of really local news, instead.
It is almost certain that if enough viewers living north of Preston boycotted the two mainstream North West Regional TV News-services one or both of them will find space in their output for more coverage of situations north of Preston. It is almost certain that BBC1 North West Tonight will be first to do this, simply because more Cumbrians live in it’s transmission area which extends further north than that of ITV1 Granada Reports. This is also because BBC1 North West already feels some pressure from the stipulations laid out in the BBC Royal Charter to provide news and current affairs relevant to all parts of the United Kingdom.
It is within the grasp of communities across northern North West England to draw a line in the sand and confront Regional TV producers with their news-coverage that fails to adequately represent their area or cover places nearby that they frequent, to issue ultimatums with a collective decision to find other local news sources and even to lobby the BBC or ITV.Plc to be put in another TV Region if that would provide more geographically-relevant Regional TV news in the round. It is these courses of action, in unison by a community, that will bring pressure to bear on broadcasters to up their game and provide much more geographic- appropriate news and news that’s more in-keeping with local and regional affiliations for the communities concerned.
Finally, another way to campaign effectively for much better Regional TV for Lancashire and South Cumbria is through the involvement of a political Party that raises the profile of local issues, such as the Liberal Democrats. A Campaign group like 38 Degrees is also worth exploring to raise this issue so that it gets widespread attention. Combined with writing to North West Regional TV broadcasters, boycotting their news-programmes and having rallies outside Media City, a group of only one hundred North Lancastrians doing all of this could have a real impact on North West Regional TV broadcasters: Such measures combined will spur them towards making greater efforts to provide local, effective news-coverage for communities across northern North West England.