BBC North West Tonight does not cover all the North West of England

6th February 2018

Hello, and welcome to a new site that will be dedicated to holding the Regional Television Providers in North West England to the fire to make sure that they cover all of the North West of England well. Because they certainly do not at present. Some parts of North West England get their so-called local news from across the Pennines and it features 90% what goes on in the North East of England some 100 miles away from the locality of the viewers concerned.  To say this is shocking is an understatement.

If you live in any of these locations;- #Kendal, #Keswick, #Whitehaven, #Workington, #Maryport, #StBeesHead, #Shap, #Millom, #Sedbergh, #Torver, #Coniston, #Barrowin Furness, #Ulverston, #KirkbyLonsdale, #KirkbyStephen, #Hornby, #Carnforth, #Morecambe, #Shap, #Penrith, #Ambleside, #Windermere, #Lancaster, #Garstang, #KnottEnd on Sea, #Fleetwood, #ThorntonCleveleys, #Bispham, #Blackpool, #Lytham Saint Annes, #Kirkham, #Colne, #Nelson and #Clitheroe and – further north – #Wigton, #Silloth, #Aspatria, #BurghbySands and #Carlisle then, if you live in any of the aforementioned locations regional television is lamentable. Basically anywhere north of Preston , that is the northern two-thirds of North West England – you do not really get local news on the telly.

I am aware that people who live in most of Cumbria , that’s Kendal northwards get better news on ITV Border, which does cover the county quite well, however it does somewhat go against regional affiliation in that places like Stranraer and Jedburgh and Sanquhar are not at all local to folk living in Workington and Ambleside, and folk living in most of Cumbria are unlikely to travel there to go shopping, or to attend hospital or go on holiday (which would tend to involve going to a regional airport).

Folk living in South Cumbria, that’s south of Kendal and in northern Lancashire cannot really get Border Television and have to choose between ITV Granada and BBC North West Tonight , whose definition of the North West of England extends to Ambleside and who still rarely see fit to report north of Preston. This situation affects close to one million inhabitants who live on the Fylde Coast, the Burnley and Colne area, Lancaster and Morecambe and the Barrow in Furness, Ulverston, Millom, Grange over Sands and Kirkby Lonsdale areas. These near one million inhabitants in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria have the most lamentable choice for relevant regional television anywhere in England,  areas of similar population elsewhere are much better catered for.

If you live in the South of Cumbria or in northern Lancashire the local news is primarily about Manchester , Liverpool and Cheshire with a bit of Lancashire but also the Peak District of Derbyshire.  These locations are 50 to 70 miles or more from the locations affected.  There is a Hobson’s Choice of watching this so-called local news on ITV Granada or on BBC North West Tonight. It’s a disgrace.

Even in the Preston,  Blackburn, Chorley, Wigan and Southport areas the regional programming must grate a little: These are locations that are also overlooked in favour of Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire. Even in these areas the programming would be appreciated as more of a regional programme if places further north were covered better. Folk who live in locations like Wigan and Preston do travel to the Lake District which is just an hour up the M6, for example.

The situation facing folk living in the north and west of Cumbria is different. Viewers in these locations are not so badly off, but that is only because ITV Border Television covers Cumbria well, the only problem is that of the other locations covered they are not places that many Cumbrian viewers would have much to do with, except if they wished to holiday in southern Scotland. Border Television have got round this, to some extent, by having an opt-out for the Scottish Borders which provides more coverage of southern Scotland whilst Cumbria gets more Cumbrian news. Unfortunately , since the tie-up with ITV Tyne Tees, which covers the North East almost ten years ago Border Television’s Carlisle base has been run-down and the local programming has been produced in Gateshead, at weekends and at night coverage of events in the North East of England are broadcast across Cumbria and southern Scotland.

The BBC’s output for north and west Cumbria is much poorer, being provided from Newcastle in the form of Look North, which covers all of the North East as well as the northern two-thirds of Cumbria. However, Look North does usually have some coverage of Cumbria on most nights, even if only one news item out of nine or ten. The main issue here has to be the fact that the output is North East based, which means that for any part of northern Cumbria west of the M6 some 85 to 90% of the so-called local news is irrelevant- being well over an hour and a half’s drive away. There is also a clear sense that once you get as far west as Maryport or Cockermouth that the BBC’s Regional Programming comes from the “wrong ” Region.

All this is something that the good folk at the BBC and ITV might like to rectify. A new BBC Region that covers (and is broadcast to) Lancashire (including Bolton, Wigan and Southport) , Cumbria and the Isle of Man- and providing 10% overlap coverage of Manchester/Liverpool in the south and west Northumberland / southern Scotland in the north would be a big improvement in local news provision for the northern three-quarters of North West England. This is an area home to three million people, about the same as the population of Wales that has it’s own regional television output on both ITV and the BBC.  The BBC could do it, in view of the ££ millions spent providing programming for other countries and in their languages! The reason for the BBC doing this is it is mandated to through the BBC Trust, it is time that Mandate was amended to include better regional telly!

Ian Pennell








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