Regional Television in Switzerland

30th December 2021

Dear Readers

Hello. I am currently staying with my brother in Switzerland during Christmas and the New Year where Regional and Local Television is treated somewhat more generously per capita of the population compared to Northern England (that is Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, North East England and all North West England plus the Isle of Man). The population of this large area is over 15.5 million inhabitants and the surface area exceeds 44,000 square kilometres. This entire area is served by just four BBC Regions and just five ITV Regions. All of North East England plus most of North Yorkshire is served by one each of these ITV and BBC Regions, despite being home to three million people, most of Cumbria also shares the large BBC North East Region, despite places like Workington and Whitehaven clearly being in the North West!

Lets now compare this situation with the land-locked country of Switzerland, where I am staying with my brother: Just 8.75 million folk live in Switzerland (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/switzerland-population/), and the geographical surface area of the entire country is just 41,285 square kilometres (https://www.eda.admin.ch/aboutswitzerland/en/home/umwelt/geografie/geografie—fakten-und-zahlen.html). However, the Swiss have access to no less than 14 different Regional Television News services, each area of the country has its own bespoke Local and Regional News service (details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_in_Switzerland). Moreover, Regional Television channels are entitled to at least 4% of their TV license fee each year- amounting to about £2.5 to £3 million each year for each Local News service. Thus, Regional Television is also well- funded and, also it is not at the mercy of television companies making economies by cutting “unprofitable Regional News”.

In terms of the number of local TV stations the TV Regions cover geographical areas that are about a third of the geographical area of those in northern England and catering for populations that are about 20% of the size of the populations of the TV Regions across Northern England and the Isle of Man (bearing in mind that the BBC and ITV Regions largely duplicate, ITV News Border being the one exception). In Switzerland, each TV Region caters for less than one million people and covers a geographical area of about 3,000 square kilometres. The other positive, is that there is overlap coverage of news into adjacent transmission areas so that folk living at the edge of the TV Region get to learn about major happenings 30 miles away but into the adjacent TV Region. In the North of Switzerland, where I am staying with my brother, viewers have access to national German-speaking news-channels that have a fair amount of news-coverage from across the border into Germany and- in some cases- German national news (i.e., here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SRF_1 and here https://www.zdf.de/). By way of contrast, how much of Northumberland has easy access to Scottish news should northern Northumbrians wish to know what is happening across the Scottish Border?!!

If North East England and North Yorkshire were to have the same degree of coverage per-capita and geographic area as is found in Switzerland, then North Yorkshire and Teesside along with southern County Durham would have its own bespoke TV Region, the news-programming of which would have some overlap south into West Yorkshire and Humberside, overlap west into Cumbria and overlap north to Tyneside and southern Northumberland. Tyneside, Wearside northern County Durham and Northumberland would also, certainly, have their own bespoke Local and Regional News-service- with coverage of Northumberland given greater prominence -and with overlap coverage north into the Scottish Borders and East Lothian in south-east Scotland, south to Teesside and northern North Yorkshire and west to Carlisle and North Cumbria. Cumbria itself would have its own Cumbria Region, or be in a northern North West England/ Borders Region with Dumfries and Galloway, and northern Lancashire.

For all viewers in, say, the current BBC North East/ Cumbria Region the Swiss level of funding and coverage would represent a massive improvement in the proportion of news-coverage that would be considered relevant and local. Viewers in places like Otterburn or Wooler would actually find much more of the news to be within an hours drive of their communities, as would viewers in places like Hawes or Leyburn!

All the best for 2022: Lets hope that this is the Year the Regional TV News providers sit up and take notice that the Viewers in their Northern Hinterlands feel neglected and wish to have regular news about their communities, not just Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland or Middlesbrough!