I don’t comment too much, I don’t work in the industry but I occasionally feel compelled to comment.
The success of these regional magazine/news programmes is two fold.
Absolutely yes, the localness of the programme is a key factor. Local/regional issues and culture plus the ever lasting novelty of seeing places you intimately know and recognise.
But the personalities have always been part of the formula and the success of these programmes. In my childhood in Yorkshire and my young adulthood in Manchester, Richard Whitley, Harry Gration, Christa Ackroyd, Lucy Meacock and Gordon Burns were/are very much local celebrities that everyone knows in a way they don’t on national news.
It’s disappointing that the BBC have gone single headed and that they are apparently going pure hard news. The current format has the right balance. After circa 45 minutes of international, national and regional news, that 15 minutes of magazine style features makes for a nice end to the “news hour”.
Much of that also lends itself perfectly to double headed presentation. It’s warm and friendly and the viewer responds to that.
COVID 19 brought with it a National (worldwide) crisis that most generations have never experienced. The start of it brought some very uncertain and unsettling times for many. I for one really appreciated the fact that the warm, friendly and familiar personalities remained on our screen. Whilst I appreciate double headers are difficult at this time, going forward, I do feel that the programmes will suffer.
It takes a particularly strong format to pull off regional single headers. BBC London for example just feels an extension of the National. When I first moved to Manchester, NWT was single headed by Gordon Burns but that relied on a fair bit of participation by Dianne Oxberry and the sports presenter. In fact Dianne used to do the final item and close with Gordon.
Unfortunately presenters can be very expensive and having two on screen is difficult to justify at a time when big cuts have to be made.
You mentioned Christa Ackroyd. When she was appealing an HMRC tax bill of £419,000 for her 11 years at Look North it was revealed that her salary was £163,000, and that was back in 2013. That kind of money would fund a reporter, crew and producer and get several stories a week on screen. In terms of value for money I would prefer improved news coverage over a bit of to and froing between presenters.