Rural Northumberland receives hardly any coverage whatsoever either on BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees. ITV Border (Scotland) could come to the rescue.

There was a news report on broadband being rolled out in mid-Northumberland on ITV Tyne Tees this evening (https://t.co/Wc9uFj1M0H?amp=1). It was the first news- item from anywhere significantly North of Tyne for several days. It is very clear that viewers of Regional Television who live in Northumberland more than twenty miles north and north-west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne do not get good effective local news- coverage. It also causes discontent for viewers to have little or no coverage of their area, none at all of places to the north of them (because these places happen to be just over the Border into Scotland) but plenty coverage of locations an hour’s drive (or further) to the south.

BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria), which is received by all of Northumberland arguably provides even worse coverage of the county than ITV Tyne Tees. Aside from a report on a prison near Morpeth, almost all of the county (except the urbanised south-east corner) has not been covered for ten days: This is not, perhaps, surprising for a Regional Television service that has a transmission area extending from Ripon, in southern North Yorkshire right up to the Scottish Border, just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed- and extending across most of Cumbria too.

The fact remains is that the North East Regional Television news- broadcasters cannot cover such a huge area and provide good effective news- coverage that keeps everyone happy across such a massive area in a half-hour programme: Viewers in Cumbria will want much more news about Cumbria and (certainly) west of Carlisle and south of Penrith- they would want a more North West flavoured Regional News Programme, viewers in North Yorkshire will want more coverage of their county with some coverage of the North East but further south will also want some coverage of the major Yorkshire cities and surrounding areas. In northern Northumberland, viewers will want more coverage of locations within an hour’s drive of them- i.e. Northumberland with some overlap into the Scottish Borders and towards Edinburgh.

The BBC North East/ Cumbria transmission area is certainly too big and needs trimming back: If West Cumbria and the North Lakes were returned to BBC North West (with BBC North West required to cover Cumbria properly by reducing some Sports coverage) and the more southerly portion of North Yorkshire- south of Thirsk put in the BBC Yorkshire Region, it would be possible for BBC North East to concentrate more on neglected rural areas like northern and western Northumberland. Cutting a minute off Sports coverage would also free up resources so that rural Northumberland and rural County Durham (west of the A68) could be covered- with some overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders too. The result would be a significantly improved Local and Regional News Service for viewers in towns like Bellingham, Otterburn, Cornhill-on-Tweed and Wooler in Northumberland and towns like Middleton-in-Teesdale and Stanhope in County Durham.

Sports fans are unlikely to suffer too much from a minute trimmed off coverage of Newcastle United on BBC Look North- there are now multiple Sports Channels they can access on television: Besides, a Regional News service should really prioritise providing just that- News.

However, it is possible that Regional News Providers in the North East would balk at producing any overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders for fear of upsetting Brexit-supporters who live in North East England (and who cannot stand Nicola Sturgeon/Scottish folk because of their perceived stance on Brexit). So, there is another solution, one that will make North Northumbrians happy.

This solution involves the television transmitters at Chatton and Berwick-upon-Tweed being tweaked so that all of northern Northumberland receives the Scottish version of ITV Border, the programmers of which still provide coverage of Berwick-upon-Tweed for the benefit of viewers in the Scottish Borders. Since ITV Tyne Tees and ITV Border are produced nowadays from the same site in Gateshead, there should be little problem with collaboration so that viewers close to the transmission boundary between ITV Border (Scotland) and ITV Tyne Tees gain a better all-round news-service. This could involve a pooling of resources so there is more Northumberland news- gathering, with news produced that could be used for both ITV Tyne Tees and ITV Border (Scotland). Postcode mapping could also be used so that viewers in Otterburn, Rothbury and Widdrington pick up ITV Border (Scotland).

It is unlikely that, on the Scottish side of the Scottish Border viewers of ITV Border (Scotland) object to (perhaps) 10% more coverage of Northumberland since they have lived with coverage of Berwick-upon-Tweed and some coverage of Cumbria for a long time. Since Cumbrian viewers of ITV Border receive the English (or Cumbrian) version reducing some of the coverage of Cumbria in lieu of more Northumberland coverage won’t cause any grief- and it is certainly more relevant for viewers in the Scottish Borders.

However, for rural northern and north-west Northumberland,ITV Border (Scotland) would provide a much better news- service. Viewers in places like Seahouses, Bamburgh and Alwinton will finally have a real choice of Regional News, they could watch BBC Look North (with news mainly about places an hour or more away) or they could enjoy a local news-service that also recognises their strong cultural and historical links across the Border into Scotland.

Westernmost Northumberland- that is locations west of Hexham- could be post-code mapped to receive the English version of ITV Border (which manly covers Cumbria), rather than ITV Tyne Tees. This would put western parts of Northumberland into a TV sub-region that has less than one-sixth population than the ITV Tyne-Tees transmission area, so rural communities like Allendale, Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge would stand a much better chance of being covered: These areas would also receive coverage of Carlisle and northern Cumbria with which these rural areas of western Northumberland have more affiliation than with the urban North East.

At a stroke, ITV Border (Scotland) taking on northern Northumberland and ITV Border (Cumbria) taking on westernmost Northumberland would also help safeguard the future of the entire ITV Border franchise: Increasing the population of its transmission area will help eliminate the threat of this vital ITV Region being mothballed- this would not only be bad news for Northumberland but also Cumbria and Southern Scotland, where ITV Border provides excellent local news-programming. Financially there would be virtually no cost to such a move, since the only cost involve will be the one-time tweaking of some relay transmission masts in northern and western Northumberland.

If you live in rural Northumberland and bemoan the lack of local news- coverage and the absence of overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders (which is an area you may visit on a fine day in the summer), why not write to the Programmers at ITV Border requesting to be transferred to the ITV Border (Scotland) or ITV Border (Cumbria) transmission area depending on just where you live in Northumberland? Email ITV Border at: btvnews@itv.com

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