ITV Border’s tie-up with ITV Tyne-Tees.

21st February 2018,

Dear Readers,

Early in 2009 ITV embarked on a cost-cutting exercise and the ITV Border Region was amalgamated with the ITV Tyne-Tees Region. The ITV Border Region, which covers Cumbria and southern Scotland, and a tiny part of western Northumberland lost it’s full flagship regional news programming and their only news was a 15 minute opt-out in the main evening news from Tyne-Tees. This caused uproar, since it meant viewers in places like Stranraer in the far south-west of Scotland were getting “local” news from the cities of North East England some 200 miles away and for West and parts of South Cumbria along with the Dumfries area such local news was 100 or more miles away.

As a consequence of the resultant complaints to OFCOM, ITV were eventually required by OFCOM to make provision for the restoration of ITV Border’s full 30 minutes of local news via its flagship “Lookaround” programme during evenings. This happened in September 2013 and in January 2014 a separate Scottish version of ITV Border’s “Lookaround” was aired north of the Border. The Isle of Man was transferred to the ITV Granada Region (Manx citizens would doubtless been incensed to have been getting “local” news from North East England and it is likely that they would have demanded the change!). As a consequence of these later developments folk living in most of Cumbria and Southern Scotland would have seen a massive improvement in local news provision, particularly as ITV Border no longer had to cover the Isle of Man.

Nevertheless viewers in Cumbria who receive ITV Border get far better local news coverage than those further south in the very south of Cumbria and in Lancashire get off ITV Granada. They also get much better coverage of their county than they get from BBC Look North which provides 85% coverage of North East England and which is certainly irrelevant to its viewers in West Cumbria.

However, one issue remains with ITV having tied up the ITV Border Region with that of ITV Tyne-Tees. A good amount of the regional programming in the morning and at the weekends concerns both ITV Regions, with the result being that much of the news is about North East England at those times. This is a problem.

As I have pointed out in previous topics on this site the cities of the North East of England are over 90 miles and over two hours’ drive away from locations like Workington and Whitehaven: What happens in the North East of England is irrelevant to viewers in West Cumbria and the same would certainly be true for folk living in Dumfries and Galloway and South Ayrshire (who are also in the Tyne-Tees and Border transmission areas). Furthermore, northern Cumbria is, geographically part of the North West of England and it would be nice for the good people of northern Cumbria to choose which Regional Affiliation suits them rather than having both their Regional Television News Providers forcing them into an affiliation with the North East of England. However, the news provision from ITV Border is still much much better than from BBC Look North- during the main evening news programme on ITV Border, the Cumbrian version of “Lookaround” provides Cumbrian viewers with something like 50% coverage of Cumbria!

A large area of South Cumbria also receives ITV Border. Whilst the Cumbrian coverage is excellent folk living in Kendal and Windermere cannot be happy to be getting news largely about the North East in the regional Breakfast Bulletins and at weekends. South Cumbria has much more regional affiliation to Lancashire and Manchester, which is where they are likely to go if they go to the airport, need specialist surgery or go on a major shopping trip. This is not to say that all of South Cumbria should be in the ITV Granada Region (which would upset them greatly) but it does mean that ITV should provide ITV Border with the resources to do all of its own local programming (including the separate opt-out for Southern Scotland): That means all breakfast, late night and weekend regional bulletins.

IF and it’s a big IF, IF ITV Border has to be tied up with another ITV Region it should be ITV Granada. This means that viewers in the north of Cumbria have a choice of BBC Look North that gives about 15% coverage of Cumbria, the rest being about the North East on the one hand and ITV Border which gives excellent coverage of Cumbria (with a bit of southern Scotland) and some news from the North West at breakfast time and at weekends on the other hand. I cannot see folk from the north-east of Cumbria around Carlisle making a big fuss- they have the option of watching Look North from Newcastle, however folk in the west and south of Cumbria would have a news-service that recognises that they live in North West England, not the North East but also provides much much better coverage of the area overall.

Viewers on the Scottish side of the ITV Border Region would not be happy with Breakfast Bulletins about Manchester and Liverpool. Perhaps the opt-out for this area can be maintained, or (if not) these viewers could have the choice to switch over to BBC Scotland at breakfast time.

However,  it is abundantly clear that viewers of ITV Border living in Carlisle or Kelso, in the Scottish Borders would be just as annoyed to get Breakfast Bulletins about Liverpool or Crewe as would Kendal or Whitehaven viewers be annoyed to get Breakfast Bulletins about Sunderland or Teesside! Any amalgamation or tie-up of ITV Border with any neighbouring ITV Region, with some news coming from the neighbouring ITV Region is certain to annoy a good number of viewers in this special ITV Border Region, no matter what is done.

Clearly, the ITV Border Region is a special case, it is sufficiently far removed from the main population centres in the North East of England, the North West and the Forth-Clyde Valley across central southern Scotland to justify it being it’s own ITV Region doing all of its programming morning, noon and night and seven days a week. The ITV Border area’s tie-up with ITV Tyne-Tees has done a disservice to folk in West and South Cumbria and southern Scotland; it has indeed contributed to driving the Isle of Man into the Granada Region (see here: http://www.three.fm/news/isle-of-man-news/granada-news-service-to-resume-on-islands-screens/). However ITV Border being freed from ITV Tyne-Tees to be tied up with Granada is clearly not a solution.

To that end, it’s high time that OFCOM had another special quiet word with in ITV’s big corporate ears: The ITV Border Region is to be Re-instated in Full or a Big Big Fine is coming your way, ITV Plc.

And OFCOM could have another special little word with ITV: Time to provide South Cumbria and Lancashire with an opt-out in the ITV Granada Region!

Ian Pennell

#Granada,  #ITV-Border, #Cumbria,

#ITV-Tyne-Tees, #Regional-News,

#OFCOM

 

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