The good folk of Berwick-upon Tweed must be wondering whether they (or, should that be ITV) made the right move back in 2006 when they were transferred from the ITV Border (Scotland) transmission area to ITV Tyne Tees because the furthest north the North East Regional news has come (Both on BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees has been a nine-year old girl from Blyth (still 60 miles south of Berwick) doing litter- picking! At least Blyth is in Northumberland, but hardly local to the good folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Cornhill-on-Tweed or Wooler. In any case, Blyth is in the urban south-east of the county, a northwards extension of Tyneside, where residents have concerns and worries that are a million miles from those of farmers and villages who live up along the Scottish Border.
It is certainly high time that the BBC and ITV Regional news- programmers in the North East rectified this problem because a Regional News service is not providing effective localised coverage for all its viewers if 200,000 folk (the population of rural west and northern Northumberland) and half of the geographical area of North East England gets no coverage for days on end. For days, now, the nearest “local news” for viewers in places like Byrness, Seahouses, Norham and Falstone has been an hour’s drive away or further.
It is also unacceptable that there is not an overlap zone for coverage into the Scottish Borders, in view of the strong links between Northumberland and southern Scotland. Both Regional broadcasters for the North East of England provide overlap coverage southwards across North Yorkshire for the benefit of their northern North Yorkshire and Teesside viewers, there should also be overlap northwards for the benefit of North Northumbrian viewers who travel into the Scottish Borders for days out, to visit relatives and (occasionally) to go shopping. There have been a couple of fatal road accidents and the A68 collapsing in a land-slip in the Scottish Borders during the summer- not one mention from BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees.
My name is Ian Pennell and I am a freelance Book-keeper: I live near Alston, in the North Pennines in north-east Cumbria. I have friends who live in northern North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 17 years ago) and in other parts of Cumbria. I have two Website Campaigns that seek to promote more localised Regional TV coverage for large rural areas across the North of North West England and North East England. .
A big problem is that the Regional Television Bulletins for the North West covers the southern third of the Region about 90% (plus a part of Derbyshire which is NOT the North West of England), covers the middle third of North West England poorly and covers the northern third of North West England not at all! When I was studying at Lancaster University, I used to watch BBC1 North West Tonight because it covered areas up around where I was brought up- in northern Cumbria as well as more immediately locally around Lancaster. Then I came home one day, turned on BBC1 North West Tonight wondering why they were silent on Cumbria and discovered why: Most of Cumbria had been chopped off the weather-map! .
People living in the westernmost part of North West England (around St. Bees Head) have local BBC news on their televisions which is 90% about North East England!
In rural and northern Northumberland too, Regional TV, as is received by viewers, tends too often to be Tyneside/ Wearside/ Teesside- focussed with little news locally. Communities in North Northumberland have strong links across the Border into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh but none of the Regional TV News- services serving Northumberland today ever goes across the Scottish Border for significant happenings of interest to North Northumbrians. I have also done walking in the area, including around the Cheviots in the past- and the Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ East and Mid Lothian area is vast- but it is largely overlooked by mainstream Regional TV! .
North Yorkshire, the largest county in England also falls in the gaps between coverage from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees in the north of the county, and the Leeds-based BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV- services in the south of the county: North Yorkshire is a huge, yet beautiful county, which I have visited and explored in the past, yet is poorly covered in Regional TV. .
Based near Alston, near the Cumbria/ Northumberland boundary I am well-placed to discuss Regional TV in all these large rural areas, in which collectively some two million folk live, yet they are poorly covered by the Regional TV News- services set up to serve them. These huge areas are an hour to two hours' drive from where I live: North Lancashire and South/ West Cumbria are to the south-west, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and Lothian are to the north and north-east, and North Yorkshire is to the south-east of my home near Alston. I am well-placed to draw attention to deficiencies in Regional TV coverage for folk in all these areas. The North Pennines, where I live, is arguably another large area that touches on the other three where Regional TV coverage falls through the gaps completely (and that is despite the North Pennines running north to south down the middle of the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria Region). .
In two websites, one for northern North West England and the Isle of Man (a country in it's own right that does not have it's own TV service!), and another Website focussing on Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the North Pennines I make the point that Regional TV that informs viewers of important things in their local area is a Public Service, funding for which should be given a higher priority (and if necessary via statute through the BBC's Charter), than funding for Soaps, Films or Sport- which are for leisure. I also give viewers the tools to fight effectively for better- and more geographic-appropriate Regional TV where they live- and to seek it through alternative (often little-known) local TV services, some of which may only be available on the Internet.
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