Regional Television News in North West England sometimes omits South Cumbrian news that is covered in North East/Cumbria Regional News.

23rd February 2018,

There are times when BBC Regional Television in the North West of England, which is  broadcast as far north as the South Lakes, spectacularly fails to cover quite significant news events in South Cumbria (still within their transmission area) whilst these same events are covered on BBC Look North from Newcastle (which includes North and West Cumbria in the transmission area).  Over Christmas and into early January alone there was a report on £6 million being provided for Social Housing in the South Lakeland area (South Cumbria); there was also a report into the South Lakeland Safari Park covered on BBC Look North and another report concerning a young man who attacked a mother with a hammer in Kendal.  None of this featured in BBC North West Tonight.

In addition to this, BBC Look North has also covered the Ethan Stables case, where this young man was jailed for terrorist offences.  This concerned Barrow in Furness, which is fully 25 miles south of BBC North East/ Cumbria’s transmission boundary.  The case of the little girl, Poppi Worthington, that was abused and who died as a result of the abuse has actually had extensive coverage on both BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and on BBC North West Tonight over the period before Christmas, and that has actually been one of the few Cumbrian situations that have attracted considerable coverage on BBC North West Tonight.

The reason for making these points is to highlight the fact that BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) provides news-coverage of news-events in South Cumbria for the benefit of their viewers in the north and west of Cumbria;  BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) also cover news-events in places like Harrogate and York (in the southern half of North Yorkshire) for the benefit of their viewers in places like Guisborough, Richmond and Whitby, in the northern half of North Yorkshire- in order that these viewers know what is going on in the south of their own county.  This is right and proper because if something really significant happens just beyond the transmission boundary, particularly if a county extends over it, it is incumbent on the broadcast media in question to report the news for the benefit of the people in the same county but just within the transmission area. This helps to make local news relevant to all parts of the Region.

The Regional Television providers in the North West of England, that is ITV Granada and BBC North West, do however seem to have more of a problem with overlap coverage. They very rarely, if ever, cover anything north of their transmission boundary in Cumbria- the report on the Zip-Wire plans (and subsequent cancellation) at Thirlmere in the central Lakes on BBC North West Tonight the other night was perhaps the first time they have actually done this for some months- and even that was just five miles north of the transmission boundary.  The reason for BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada not covering northern Cumbria (like BBC Look North covers South Cumbria for the benefit of their viewers in northern Cumbria) is possibly down to the high population of the south of their “Patch” (as they sometimes refer to it!), and with five million people living in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire and the High Peak area of Derbyshire that BBC North West covers the editors feel that they have no scope to overlap coverage into northern Cumbria- despite that still being part of North West England.

If it is the case that the high population of the south of the BBC North West transmission area precludes viewers in south Cumbria and North Lancashire, then, the transmission area should be split in two with the northern region being a new BBC North West covering Lancashire (including Wigan, Bolton and Southport), South Cumbria and the Isle of Man; West Cumbria (at the least) should then be transferred to this new BBC North West Region.  The same should happen for ITV Granada. It is entirely possible for this to happen, if the BBC and ITV North West Region received the same spend per capita as the national average that would certainly prove funds for an opt-out (with the relay transmitter at Lancaster being tweaked) so that Lancashire, South and West Cumbria and the Isle of Man can get their own regional news bulletins.  Those areas of Cumbria that currently get ITV Border would still get it.

People who live in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria do take an interest in what happens further north, since folk tend to travel to the North Lakes or to Carlisle and Penrith from locations a bit further south for a day out. If (say) North West Tonight made an effort to provide some coverage of northern Cumbria (say, once a week or for serious news) it would show that all of North West England is covered because the programme would cover everywhere north of the Midlands and west of the Pennines right up to the Scottish Border- it would strengthen their reputation as a provider of North West Regional News.

There is also the argument that folk in locations in the very south of the Region, around Crewe and Congleton would welcome some overlap coverage of events in northern Shropshire and Staffordshire. The same argument applies to people living in Burnley, Rochdale and Littleborough who might want to know what happens in West Yorkshire or for folk in the High Peak area of Derbyshire (who see North West Tonight) who might want to know what happens elsewhere in Derbyshire. Neither Shropshire, Staffordshire or West Yorkshire, nor (it has to be said) Derbyshire are part of the North West so coverage should perhaps be restricted to really serious developments like road traffic accidents with multiple fatalities and such coverage should be limited to once every few weeks at most- otherwise BBC North West Tonight loses some of its reputation as a provider of North West England Regional News.

In recent days and weeks there was coverage of events concerning Sheffield (a letter from a stranger on a train) on North West Tonight and reports (on BBC North West’s Twitter Feed) of a fire at Nottingham Station, those are items that should not have been there. However, half of the city of Carlisle being under water- in the context of wider flooding across Cumbria (as happened in December 2015) perhaps should find a place in North West Regional Bulletins, since it concerns viewers of these bulletins in South Cumbria and it is still part of the North West.

It is probably likely that neither the BBC in the North West nor ITV Granada wish to provide overlap coverage into northern Cumbria for the benefit of 200,000 folk who live in South Cumbria when there is near seven million folk living in their transmission area- most of whom live in the south of the Region. They would probably justify it by saying they cover part of Derbyshire but don’t provide news coverage of all of Derbyshire (that, by the way is an argument for transferring the High Peak area to the BBC Look North (Leeds) Region that DOES cover much of Derbyshire). It is possible that they would get snappy if you pressed them on the issue of covering all of Cumbria!

If neither BBC North West or ITV Granada are willing to provide effective news-coverage of Cumbria, complete with overlap coverage to incorporate all of northern Cumbria and to cover northern Lancashire better (Lancaster and Morecambe have scarcely been mentioned for weeks on either bulletin), then the time has come to split the respective BBC and ITV Regions. Another possibility, that would be relatively cost-free except that of tweaking the relay transmitter in Lancaster, -is for ITV Border to be totally cut off from its link with Tyne Tees and for the ITV Border Region to be extended to cover the rest of South Cumbria and northern Lancashire- all of Cumbria and northern Lancashire could then be covered exclusively in it’s English version of “Lookaround”; such a measure would improve news-coverage for South Cumbria and northern Lancashire immeasurably and also provide viewers in these areas with a choice to find out what is happening in locations a bit further north.

Ian Pennell

#South_Cumbria, #North_Cumbria, #North_West_Tonight, #ITV_Granada

#Look_North(NE&Cumbria), #overlap, #Lancashire, #opt-outs

#NWT, #North-West-Tonight, #Cumbria, #ITVGranada, #ITV-Granada, #ITV-Border

#NorthWest-England, #North_West_England, #Lookaround, #Carlisle, #Penrith, #Thirlmere,



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