7th March 2018
For a few million pounds (such savings are achievable if the BBC did not pay senior management more than the salary of the Prime Minister, Theresa May) Lancashire (including Wigan, Bolton and Southport) , Cumbria and the Isle of Man could have their own BBC North West Region. This new BBC North West Region would be perfectly viable with the population of it’s transmission area being almost three million- rather greater in population than the BBC East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire Region, the BBC South West Region (which includes the Channel Islands) and the BBC Wales Region. The new BBC North West Region would also cover a greater geographical area than the BBC East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire Region and the BBC South West Region. There is every justification for this entire area having a new BBC Region in view of the fact that the entire area gets less than 30% news- coverage on Regional Bulletins at present. North Cumbria gets 15% coverage in a BBC Region that provides news that is otherwise irrelevant to the populations of Whitehaven, Maryport and Penrith.
So this new BBC North West Region must come into being. It’s main studios will be in Lancaster and news will be transmitted from the Lancaster transmitter to the entire area. Relay transmitters in the south of Lancashire would be adjusted so that they pick up from the Lancaster transmitter, not Winter Hill. Then the Caldbeck Transmitter, in the north of Cumbria would also be tweaked to carry this new Regional Programming. But that is not all.
The Isle of Man would have it’s own opt-out news programming for the lunch-time and main evening news, broadcast from a studio in Douglas and transmitted across the island. This would provide specialist news directly relevant to people living in the Crown Dependency inasmuch as the Channel Islands have their own specialist news-service in an opt-out from BBC South West.
Northern Cumbria would also be furnished with an opt-out in the main evening and lunchtime bulletins: This would be broadcast from revamped BBC Radio Cumbria studios in Carlisle, so that regional television news could be provided from modern facilities there, this would be transmitted via the Caldbeck Transmitter.
Each of the television studios in this new BBC North West Region, in Lancaster, Carlisle and Douglas on the Isle of Man would have their own reporters, news-readers and technicians and (where appropriate) would share news material with the other sub-regional outlets.
The main Lancaster area would provide 80% coverage of Lancashire and South Cumbria, at least three out of the eight news items reserved for the Lancaster, Morecambe and South Cumbria area. The remaining 20% would be overlap coverage south as far as Crewe and northwards to include all of northern Cumbria. The overlap zone would also extend east into the Yorkshire Dales. This would provide a proper sense of regional identity and good all-round coverage for Lancashire and South Cumbria.
The opt-out news for the Isle of Man would be 100% about the Isle of Man. That is the only news that folk living in the Crown Dependency want to know about. Nowhere else is local to anyone living on the island.
The opt-out news service for northern Cumbria would provide 80% news-coverage of North and West Cumbria with a stipulation that at least three out of the eight news items about northern Cumbria should be about West Cumbria. The remaining 20% overlap coverage for the North Cumbria opt-out should cover the rest of North West England as far south as Manchester and Liverpool, extend north to cover all of southern Scotland and the Borders and extend east to include the Tyne Valley in Northumberland, rural western County Durham, the North Yorkshire Dales and extend east to include Newcastle and Gateshead (thereby placating those viewers in North Cumbria who want links with Newcastle to be respected!).
The original BBC North West programming would continue to be broadcast from Salford Quays to Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire. They would be able to focus more on the metropolitan issues affecting Manchester and Liverpool. Ideally they would still provide 10% overlap north to Lancashire and Cumbria (to cement regional identity) and provide a little overlap south into the North Midlands and North Wales within that 10%.
This new BBC North West Region, with opt-out news provided from Carlisle and Douglas would not cost more than a few million pounds a year. Savings would be made from the original BBC North West and the BBC North East/ Cumbria Regions which would save on sub-regional outlets in Lancashire and Cumbria and on travel costs to get to the periphery of the original (larger) BBC Regions. The main cost is likely to be about thirty extra staff, a good proportion of which would be support staff and technicians on no more than £50,000 per annum. The other costs would be maintaining the studios and the existing premises do, in the main, exist. The other cost, which would be an up-front cost of about £1 million would be work on the transmitters to get these to carry the right regional and opt-out programming to the right areas. Once this is done this does not need to be repeated. The BBC does have several £ millions in savings and reserves from which to make this one-off capital expenditure on tweaking transmitters so that they carry the new BBC North West programming. There will also be a smaller cost of getting (and maintaining) cameras, recording equipment and a couple of new editing suites. Again, much of this will be a one-off cost that can be met from BBC savings accounts.
There is a strong justification for the BBC creating a new BBC North West Region, with the sub-regional opt-out programming as described. The North West generally, and the northern three-quarters of the North West in particular, have been sold short with Regional Television for a long time. An extra £3 million a year, which the BBC could find with the will (they made over £500 million per annum in savings under government direction during the Conservative/ Lib Dem Coalition Government!!). If the BBC set to it, they could find the money.
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