10th October 2023
Tonight I watched BBC1 North West Tonight, ITV1 Granada Reports and ITV1 Border Lookaround. On the strength of tonight’s programming ITV Border’s Lookaround clearly comes out top for folk living north of Preston. Neither BBC1 North West Tonight nor ITV Granada Reports had anything from north of Preston. BBC North West programming normally has more coverage of Lancashire, that was true tonight. However, there was nothing geographic appropriate for someone living in, say, Carnforth or Ulverston from either of the mainstream NW Regional TV providers. On the other hand, ITV1 Border Lookaround had extensive coverage of Cumbria. That included extensive coverage of South Cumbria in the context of what a Labour government might bring.
A Local News-service Championing Lancashire and Cumbria
Folk living in South Cumbria and North Lancashire really need their own Regional TV, dedicated to Cumbria and Lancashire news-coverage. The default Regional TV programming for the area, from BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports, generally fails the area. Almost one million people live in Lancashire north of the River Ribble or in South Cumbria and they live 50 or more miles from central Manchester or Merseyside. Yet folk in North Lancashire have news, by and large, covering the concerns and issues affecting Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Imagine the outcry if folk living in West Yorkshire had to have news mostly about Manchester, 50 miles away from them!
Communities in and near Fleetwood, Lancaster, Carnforth and Kendal need a news-outlet championing their concerns, issues, job-opportunities and local initiatives. This increases democratic accountability and protects local communities because people are told about local issues that they can then make informed decisions on. Increased coverage with a regional voice dedicated to northern North West England helps sell the area better to the outside world. That, in turn, brings increased business interest and investment into the area. A Regional TV service dedicated to Lancashire and South Cumbria would need a studio, reporters, etc,. based in Lancaster. All of this means more investment and opportunities for North Lancastrians and South Cumbrians.
The Case for Campaigning for ITV Border Lookaround
Mainstream North West Regional TV often leaves more northerly viewers out in the cold. This is something that has been covered extensively on this Website. It’s often the case that, for one living somewhere like Carnforth, ITV1 Border Lookaround provides more local news than ITV1 Granada Reports. Few people consider happenings over an hour’s drive away to be local. By that definition both BBC North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports produced under 20% local news for northernmost Lancashire tonight. On the other hand ITV1 Border Lookaround had nearer 30% local coverage for northernmost Lancashire by that definition: ITV1 Border Lookaround covered South Cumbria extensively.
If ITV.Plc transferred northern Lancashire from the ITV Granada region to the ITV Border region local news-coverage would be higher still. That’s because the ITV1 Granada transmission region has seven million inhabitants, but ITV1 Border would have just 1.5 million inhabitants including northern Lancashire. Were that to happen, ITV1 Border would probably resurrect the Selkirk opt-out so that southern Scottish viewers retain Scottish coverage. Viewers in Cumbria and northern Lancashire would enjoy a regional news-service with 65% news about Cumbria/ northern Lancashire.
If one lives in Fleetwood or Garstang, swapping a Regional TV service mainly covering Manchester/ Merseyside with one covering Carlisle and the Scottish Border lots will appeal less. However, were northern Lancashire covered by ITV1 Border Lookaround northern Lancashire would gain better local coverage. Another appeal is coverage of Cumbria/ The Lakes, which is more local than Manchester/ Merseyside for folk living north of Preston. If folk living in Fleetwood received a Regional TV service with 25% coverage of northern Lancashire and 15% coverage of South Cumbria they would be happier than with what they get from ITV1 Granada Reports with its 80% coverage of Manchester/ Liverpool/ Cheshire. That is certain!
A Route to Getting a North West Regional TV service for Lancashire and South Cumbria
To that end, there is a clear route to getting programmers for both BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports to take their northerly viewers much more seriously. It is to campaign for ITV.Plc to transfer all areas of Lancashire north of Preston and Blackpool to their ITV1 Border transmission region. If enough people living in North Lancashire and South Cumbria did this, North West Regional TV broadcasters would sit up and take notice. For maximum effect, this would take the form of a series of public rallies outside the Media City (Salford) headquarters of both BBC1 North West and ITV1 Granada Reports. Such rallies would have banners with messages like “North Lancastrians want Lancashire and Cumbria news, Not Manchester and Merseyside News“!
Simply writing letters to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports requesting more coverage of Lancashire and Cumbria won’t cut the mustard: Indeed, just writing lots of such letters complaining about local coverage will lead to receipt of a Court Injunction banning further communication with the BBC or ITV.Plc!! Unless enough viewers believe that being in another TV Region will bring better all-round local news-coverage, Regional TV programmers will ignore such letters. If Regional TV programmers genuinely think that viewers have nowhere else to go, viewers complaining can be dismissed as “Moaning Minnies”.
However, if enough viewers not only complain about local coverage but campaign for transfer of their area to another ITV1 Regional TV news-service to get more local news that changes the equation in the minds of programmers: They then have to grapple with the question of permanently losing many viewers, and they will be more inclined to make real concessions (including opt-outs with localised news), in order to retain those viewers.