14th August 2023

Dear Readers

This evening, I offer a geographic critique around transport links that have a bearing on the general appropriateness of Regional TV News for viewers who live on the Fylde Plain or in the Wyre valley in north-west Lancashire. This has a bearing on the relevance of output from BBC1 North West Tonight and from ITV1 Granada Reports, which are the default mainstream Regional TV services for this whole area. Some 70% of the news- coverage from BBC1 North West Tonight and 80% of the coverage of ITV1 Granada Reports is about Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire or, occasionally, north-west Derbyshire. This is probably not geographically- appropriate for communities in north-west Lancashire for which the Lakes is more accessible than Greater Manchester or Merseyside.   

Some travel times will illustrate these points: If one lives on the Fylde Coast near Blackpool, or in Bilsborrow, or Garstang just northwards of Preston it is significantly quicker to get to the Lakes than to central Manchester or Liverpool, whether travelling by car or by Public transport. It takes one hour to drive from Blackpool to Windermere via the M55, M6 and A591, but one hour and eight minutes to travel to the middle of Liverpool from Blackpool via the M55, M6 and M58. Using buses and trains, it typically takes one hour and thirty minutes to travel from Garstang to Penrith but two hours to travel from Garstang to central Manchester ( There are no areas that are not in Lancashire from within 30 minutes’ drive of the Fylde plain or the Wyre valley, except the south of Cumbria just south of Kendal which is just within 30 minutes’ drive of Garstang.


This area of north-west Lancashire sandwiched between Preston to the south, the Bowland Fells to the east, Morecambe Bay to the north and the Fylde Coast to the west shares a Catholic diocese with Cumbria, is in the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and a number of other regional organisations, such as Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire, that also serve part or all of Cumbria.

People living in this predominantly rural area, in which Blackpool is the notable exception, identify as being part of Lancashire foremost and part of North West England second. The vast majority of folk live, work and travel on a daily basis to places within twenty-five miles of their home and, in these days of Amazon Prime and online shopping, really actually need to travel to a big city- unless they want the retail experience and in that case Preston, Blackpool, and Lancaster- and even Kendal are more accessible than Manchester or Liverpool. Being north of the River Ribble, the South Lakes is more accessible to the Wyre Valley and Fylde Plain than central Manchester or Merseyside. Local folk are more likely to head north to the Lakes or even the western fringes of the Yorkshire Dales around Ingleton or Kirkby Lonsdale for a nice day out rather than travel to a big bustling city, and transport links northwards (via the M6 and West Coast Main Line) are better than those southwards into the more congested road and rail network south of Preston.

For all these areas of north-west Lancashire, excluding the very north of Lancashire around Lancaster and Morecambe, Regional Television as is received by viewers is certainly geographically- inappropriate. The North West Regional News that would serve this area well would cover Lancashire and Cumbria, with some coverage of northern Greater Manchester and the Southport area, plus the westernmost Yorkshire Dales: That is it! If one is a fisherman in Fleetwood or a farmer on the western slopes of the Trough of Bowland what is happening in Port Sunlight on the Wirral or in South Cheshire is happening almost two hours’ drive away and it is likely irrelevant to that fisherman or farmer!

Proud northern Lancastrians also feel better if they get news that “Bigs- up” their sense of Northern self-esteem so they would rather have news that’s local and northwards of where they live rather than southwards. News about Cheshire, which is well south of north-west Lancashire, diminishes the northern self-esteem of viewers who live in Garstang, Fleetwood, Bilsborrow, Thornton-Cleveleys or Blackpool.

The BBC1 and ITV1 Regions are, with the exception of ITV1 Border (which covers most of Cumbria and southern Scotland), much too big: They could all be split in two and a number of them would still be too large: Lancashire and South Cumbria, and probably West Cumbria too, needs its own BBC1 Region. That would mean that north-west Lancashire would get much more local news-coverage. Alternatively, BBC1 North West Tonight could provide ten minutes of opt-out news- programming plus lunch-time opt-out bulletins tailored specifically to northern Lancashire and South Cumbria, and the Isle of Man would have it’s own special opt-out news. None of this is likely to happen without strong political pressure because neither the BBC nor ITV. Plc. are minded to be spending more money on Regional TV programming! Instead, the BBC has been cutting sub-regional TV offices in recent years and it is trying to reduce funding for the BBC1 Regions, and this does not augur well for communities on the Fylde Plain.

In order to ensure north-west Lancashire and other parts of northern North West England (like the South Cumbrian coast) get much more geographic-appropriate coverage there needs to be a concerted effort from a hundred people or more to write to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to demand programmers provide more coverage northwards of Preston. Then if that does not shift the dial folk need to write to their local MP to ask them to get Regional TV providers to cover north-west Lancashire more, and to point out to Regional TV providers which advertise as “Covering the North West of England” should cover all of North West England- so that all parts of North West England are represented and all communities in the transmission areas feel that they get appropriate local and all-round Regional TV coverage. Given that much of Cumbria is within an hour’s drive (or travel time) of places like Garstang and Bilsborrow, it follows that appropriate Regional TV for the entire area would be from the M62 to the Scottish Border.

If writing to MPs fails to move the dial with Regional TV broadcasters then a sufficient number of viewers need to be prepared to boycott the existing Regional TV services in lieu of other Regional TV programming, and to tell programmers for BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports that they will seek out other, more geographic-appropriate local news content for their community and surrounding communities. It is possible to credibly boycott both Regional TV services and still get news about Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster, Garstang and Fleetwood if one has Freeview. There is a ten-minute nightly TV service called That’s TV Lancashire which airs at on Freeview Channel 7, and which provides ten minutes of purely Lancashire news (website link here: If one has internet there is also the Lancs Live website which has lots of news about Lancashire and some news about Cumbria, plus a few news- clips (details here:

None of this comes close to replicating the  half-hour of Regional TV News that one can watch, but it is possible to make some changes in order to put pressure on Regional TV broadcasters. One has to enquire whether just five minutes’ coverage of Lancashire from BBC1 North West Tonight, albeit with the friendly face of Annabel Tiffin, is better than ten minutes of news about Lancashire (from a presenter one might grow to like). But if one wants a geographic-appropriate news-service that covers north-west Lancashire, not mainly Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire, it will require some concerted effort on behalf of some folk in the local community.

Viewers who live in towns like Garstang or Fleetwood, who regularly travel to the Lakes for days out in the summer, or who regularly travel to Cumbria to visit family or commute to work there should consider the radical option of switching over to ITV1 Border and watching Lookaround, simply because that flagship Regional TV programme covers Cumbria extremely well, in addition to having some southern Scottish news-coverage. ITV1 Border Lookaround has typically 50% coverage with Cumbria and if you like in the Wyre area and on the Fylde Plain and have strong links with Cumbria, it is one way of sticking with the half-hour Regional TV format, getting news that is relevant to you and your family and boycotting both the mainstream North West Regional TV News- services. However, the Fylde Plain and Wyre valley is just a bit too far south to pick up the ITV1 Border signal, but all is not lost: It is possible to watch ITV1 Border Lookaround from about two hours after it is aired live (about on week-nights) since the programme is loaded on to the ITV1 Border Website (here: One can watch the BBC1 national news and have That’s TV Lancashire recorded whilst watching it, then one can watch ITV1 Border Lookaround at Thus, it is perfectly possible to watch the Lancashire news then later watch the Cumbrian news- all without putting on BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV1 Granada Reports.

North West Lancashire, with rural farmland and countryside bounded by the Bowland Fells to the east, and with towns like Lytham St. Annes, Blackpool and Fleetwood on the Fylde Coast, has more in common with South and West Cumbria than the urban conurbations of Greater Manchester and Merseyside. West Cumbria is rural, with the post-industrial towns of Whitehaven and Workington on the coast, rural farmland inland with the Lake District fells to the south-east. A radical solution to the lack of geographic and topically-relevant Regional TV from ITV1 Granada Reports (which is very metropolitan in its coverage), would be for the entire area of Lancashire and South Cumbria north of Preston that currently receives ITV1 Granada programming to be transferred to ITV1 Border’s transmission area. Once it is realised that north-west Lancashire is transferred from an ITV1 transmission area with seven million inhabitants to one that would have just one-and-a-half million inhabitants once northern Lancashire is transferred- leading to a (theoretically) five-fold increase in local coverage of north-west Lancashire local viewers could get behind a campaign to change ITV1 Regions.

In practice ITV1 Border’s transmission area would have 40% of it’s inhabitants in Lancashire were all areas north of Preston moved to ITV1 Border’s transmission area. It is unlikely that ITV1 Border viewers in southern Scotland or the extreme north of Cumbria would be happy with such a change so it is likely that ITV1 Border would restrict coverage of northern Lancashire to 25% on its flagship regional programme Lookaround: Even so, that is a huge improvement on local coverage compared to what the entire area gets from ITV1 Granada Reports, and the coverage of Cumbria and the Lakes is certainly more in keeping with the regional affiliation of folk who live in north- west Lancashire. What is also likely to happen, in order to ensure southern Scottish viewers, retain a regional news programme with at least 40% coverage on Lookaround is that ITV1 Border (Scotland), which can and does get separate programming compared to ITV1 Border (England), will have a ten or fifteen-minute opt-out providing southern Scotland-only news-coverage. This would leave ITV1 Border (England) continuity- Lookaround to concentrate more on Cumbria, northern Lancashire, western Northumberland with just a couple of items of news from across the Scottish Border. As the transmission infrastructure is already in- place for the opt-out it would not cost much more to have the ten- minute showing of southern Scottish news from a studio in Selkirk or Dumfries.

It may well just be necessary for viewers in north-west Lancashire to campaign to get ITV1 Border Lookaround for the mainstream Regional TV providers in the North West to wake up to the needs of viewers who live north of Preston, and to take steps to provide much better coverage of northern North West England. If anything is going to push ITV1 Granada Reports or BBC1 North West Tonight into providing bespoke opt-out news-programming for northern Lancashire and South Cumbria it will be large rallies of viewers travelling down to Media City in Salford with large banners saying: “We Want Lancashire and Cumbria News, NOT Greater Manchester and Merseyside News! Switch Us To ITV1 Border!”.

If viewers who live in places like Fleetwood or Garstang who are really unhappy with the amount of coverage of northern North West England baulk at the idea of switching to an ITV1 Regional TV service that has some coverage of southern Scotland (which is further away from them than Manchester or Liverpool), then, of course, boycotting North West Regional TV by watching That’s TV Lancashire will still have an impact.

Direct political action will also get the attention of the BBC and ITV.Plc, if you live in north-west Lancashire but baulk at the idea of being in an ITV1 Region that has any news of Scotland. If one aligns with a political Party that has a strong track-record on campaigning on local issues (like the Liberal Democrats), then pressure can be bought to bear to ensure more money is spent on making Regional TV better and more local on the grounds that it is a Public- service which needs funding properly. State- funding of Regional TV is out of the question because that will put broadcasters under pressure to report favourably on the Party of regional and national government. However, the BBC’s Charter could be amended to require the BBC to spend 20% of their budget on Regional TV whilst also providing the BBC with special status to raise more money to pay for it: This could be funded by exemption from Corporation Tax, product-placement, business-sponsorship, and local lotteries to fund Regional TV. If such a policy found its way into the next Liberal Democrat or Conservative Party manifesto it would put much more pressure on the BBC to not only maintain but enhance local and Regional TV.

If there were the funding for more BBC1 Regions it is certain that viewers in Lancashire and South Cumbria would have their own version of BBC1 North West Tonight, which may include Greater Manchester but would exclude Merseyside, Cheshire, and north-west Derbyshire. Broadcasters for such a BBC1 Region would make sure that Lancashire and South Cumbria were much-better covered, and broadcasters would include overlap coverage of northern Cumbria too so that viewers in Kendal, Ulverston or Windermere got proper coverage of their own county. This is, in fact, what the broadcasters of BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) do for their viewers in the south of North Yorkshire on the other side of the Pennines, which is to cover all of North Yorkshire in news- output even though viewers in the north of North Yorkshire receive the BBC1 Look North for the North East and Cumbria: Thus, the Yorkshire Regional News provides news about the entire Yorkshire Region. A separate BBC1 Look North for East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire caters for viewers who live in places like Hull, Grimsby, and Lincoln but viewers living in Selby or Harrogate don’t suffer excessive coverage of Lincolnshire because that is in a different BBC1 Region to the one that they are in.    

Likewise, viewers in Lancashire and South Cumbria also want news about all of North West England- up to the Scottish Border, but more focussed on Lancashire and Cumbria. If viewers in Lancashire and South Cumbria had their own version of BBC1 North West Tonight, it is fairly certain that programmers would accede to such demands: There may be one or two news- features about Merseyside for the benefit of viewers who live in places like Skelmersdale, but there will also be news about Carlisle for the benefit of folk living in Kendal or Carnforth. The news-service would focus on Lancashire and South Cumbria, but with a spread of additional coverage from the M62 Corridor up to the Scottish Border and including the western Yorkshire Dales. Such a Regional TV News- service would encompass what is likely to be Immediate and Regionally Local and significant for viewers in places like Knott End on Sea, Bispham, or Catterall.   

It is, of course, the ultimate aim of this Website to ensure that South Cumbrians and North Lancastrians have their own bespoke Regional TV service. The website will always encourage viewers to do whatever they can to achieve this aim. A useful escalating Action Plan for local folk who want their Regional TV improved and changed is as follows:

  • Write to ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight.
    • Write to your local MP and get them to contact your Regional TV provider to express the concern that local news content is inadequate and does not reflect local and Regional affiliation with other places this far north.
    • Write to ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight to tell them that you and your friends will boycott their programming because it is not locally or topically relevant to your area. Tell them that you will watch combinations of other local- news providers like That’s TV Lancashire and ITV1 Border Lookaround instead. Then boycott the Regional TV- providers.
    • Organise a rally to travel down to Media City, Salford to campaign to get put in a Regional TV area that one finds will provide more news about one’s community or the places that one likes to frequent.
    • Join a political Party that is effective at campaigning on local issues (and which you could support) and get the issue of inadequate Regional TV coverage into their agenda. This could be done in combination with another rally outside Media City, Salford.

    If enough local folk can get involved, demand and campaign for  better, and more localised Regional TV for this often- overlooked part of northern North West England broadcasters will be forced to take notice. Simply put, less viewers equals less revenue, certainly in the case of ITV1 Granada Reports. In the case of BBC1, a loss of viewers means there is political pressure for axing the TV Licence fee and of reporters losing their jobs: Ironically, it is a loss of revenue combined with higher costs that causes BBC Management to cut Regional TV services, but if there is political pressure and the BBC Management is told that more Regional TV services means that they will be provided with tools to raise more money that will greatly disincentivise the BBC from running-down its Regional TV services!    

    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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