This article was originally posted on http://www.northwestisnorthwest.org on 12th August 2020
Viewers of Regional Television in the northern half of North East England were short- changed by both BBC Look North (North East) and ITV Tyne Tees: Lots of coverage of Tyneside, Sunderland and even Darlington (in southern county Durham) but nothing about a serious incident pertaining to anyone who lives north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who might be thinking of travelling north into the Scottish Borders for a trip out. It is an apt demonstration of the shortfalls of Regional News stopping at northern transmission boundaries and not having some overlap north of these transmission boundaries.
There were thunderstorms and localised torrential rain in the Scottish Borders overnight and this led to localised subsidence of saturated land. In one instance, a flooded embankment subsided and it led to the formation a huge sink-hole in the A68 trunk road near the village of Fala, some 15 miles south of Edinburgh (more details here: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2020-08-12/severe-weather-causes-road-to-collapse-near-fala): Not only did this mean travel along the A68 was severely disrupted, but (potentially) for anyone not informed about it travelling along the A68, the consequence could have been tragic. Indeed, some 130 miles further north near the small town of Stonehaven, in Aberdeenshire (in north-east Scotland) a landslip on an embankment did result in tragedy as it caused a train to derail with the consequence of three people losing their lives (two of which were the train- driver and the conductor). Six other people were seriously injured. This is a devastating tragedy for those who lost their lives, and for their grieving families (more on this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-53751678).
The incident on the A68, where a huge sink-hole appeared across the A68, was covered by ITV Border, and it was certainly relevant to anyone on the move in southern Scotland. The incident near Stonehaven in north-east Scotland was tragic, but being well over 170 miles north of the most northern part of Northumberland would have no salience with people living in (say) Berwick-upon-Tweed unless they were related to anyone likely to be using the 06.38 am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street train that derailed at around 9.30 am. What this incident does illustrate is the potential for heavy rain on roads and railways to have catastrophic consequences for anyone living in (and likely to travel to) the area. The incident near Fala, on the A68, led to the Police closing the road but it is the risk to life and limb for anyone travelling at speed during (or following) torrential rain that is an additional important issue here.
Most people will travel up to an hour on the train (or by road) on a day out, maybe several times in a year- be that a country drive or to visit relatives or go to a scenic spot for a walk. I recently drove the 42 miles from my home so that my brother could return his hire- car to Newcastle Airport, then I drove him 42 miles back to my home near Alston in the North Pennines. These are the sorts of trips most folk would make several times in a year.
It follows, therefore, that good Local and Regional News programming will not only provide their viewers with the most relevant and local news- content as possible (i.e. Immediately Local) but there would also be some coverage of significant events, especially those that they need to be warned about, up to an hour’s drive away from all viewers. That means BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees News providing some overlap coverage (about ten percent of all news coverage) of significant events up to an hour’s drive (or train journey) beyond their the programme transmission- areas (where the Regional news programming can actually be seen).
People living in north and northwest Northumberland are within an hour’s drive of much of the Scottish Borders and the A68 is the main trunk road connecting the North East to the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh: The car-sized sink-hole dissecting the A68 near Fala should have made the North East Regional News- accompanied by a warning for people to avoid the area. More seriously, torrential rain causes sink-holes and mud-slides, potentially leading to chasms forming under busy roads and damaged railway lines- with the potential for disaster: The next time torrential rain (or, in winter, heavy snowfalls) is forecast as likely in the Scottish Borders or indeed in Dumfries and Galloway, Carol Malia would do well to warn viewers of BBC Look North (i.e. those in Northumberland and North Cumbria who may travel to such areas for work or to visit relatives for a day) not to travel, find another route or just take extreme care.
However, this evening we had the odd situation whereby Cumbrian viewers of ITV Border’s Lookaround news- programme (and who all live more than an hour’s drive and over 75 miles from Fala) were warned about this sink-hole dissecting the A68 whereas northern Northumberland viewers of Regional Television (who can no longer get ITV Border, and who have to choose between ITV Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (North East)), and who live within an hour’s drive of Fala and the A68 sink-hole received not the tiniest mention about it! This is not acceptable.