Storm Arwen One Year On- and BBC Look North (NE) may be giving Northumberland more coverage- But Less for North Yorkshire

26th November 2022

Dear Readers

I have watched BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) last night (Friday 25th November) and also the short week-end bulletin tonight (Saturday 26th). Today is, of course, the anniversary of Storm Arwen that swept through the North East and Cumbria causing so much damage.

THE AFTERMATH OF STORM ARWEN NEAR NENTHEAD, CLOSE TO THE CUMBRIA- NORTHUMBERLAND BORDER ON THE 29TH NOVEMBER 2021. HOMES WERE STILL WITHOUT POWER LOCALLY AND SNOW DEPOSITED BY STORM ARWEN LAY THICKLY IN THE NORTH PENNINES. PHOTO COURTESY OF IAN PENNELL.

I, for one, will not forget Friday 26th November 2021 because I had to collect my father from Newcastle Central station in driving sleet (my father was returning from his older brother’s funeral, which was in the South of England). I had a trusted friend go with me because I was not too confident of driving in the city myself (I live in the North Pennines where there tends not to be much traffic on the roads)- and I was aware that getting to the train station is a bit more difficult than it used to be. And this was with driving sleet- rush-hour traffic. The train my father was on was terminated at Newcastle, so folk who needed to go further north could not! We got home to where I and my father live (near Nenthead) and it was snowing by the time we got home and the wind was blowing strong. Then, at 10.pm the power went off and we were without electricity with no Internet or computers for the next four days, during which time there was more snow and what turned out to be the coldest weather of the 2021-2022 winter, when the air-temperature dropped to -8˚C early on the Sunday morning (28th November 2021). We had six inches of snow lying and in Nenthead a venue was set up so that folk could get some hot food and warmth- a number of folk without electricity could not heat their homes.

Another enduring memory of this period is of making rhubarb and black-currant jam by candlelight! By the Tuesday (30th) Novemer the contents of our freezer were melting, and we wished to save some of the food rather than throw it all away. There was lots of chopped-up rhubarb and blackcurrants from a few years before in the freezer (which my mother had harvested and put in the freezer, sadly she passed away in January 2021) so I added lots of sugar to the rhubarb and the blackcurrants- and I cooked the pans of rhubarb and blackcurrant on our Aga (we are fortunate that it does not need electricity!) and made jam by candlelight- As you do! Later that night, after I cooked up the jam, the electricity came back on.

In some ways the North Pennines was fortunate, places along the North East Coast had wind-gusts in excess of 90 mph (98 mph was logged at Brizlee Wood, near Alnwick in Northumberland) whilst our strongest winds on the night of 26th November 2021 were a relatively tame 54 mph. And there was widespread damage caused by these strong winds and on the first anniversary of Storm Arwen BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) devoted much of their coverage to remembering it, and looking at what Northern Powergrid and both Northumberland and Durham County Councils are now doing to ensure folk are not left without power for a week or more the next time a big Winter Storm batters the North of England.

Happily, a lot of the coverage was devoted to rural areas. Carol Malia, who normally fronts BBC1 Look North was posted to Wooler to see how folk affected locally were one year on. A pub in the North Northumberland town became a major hub where locals could go for help, for hot food and hospitality if they were without power during this period. Coverage of a farm in Morpeth, of trees flattened in Kielder Forest and of rural upper Weardale (St. Johns Chapel) in County Durham was extensive. Happily for the author of this site, there was also expensive coverage of Nenthead and Alston (just 15 miles further west from St. Johns Chapel and over the border into Cumbria), and about how locals fared during Storm Arwen and the dark, cold aftermath. In tonight’s short BBC1 Look North (NE) bulletin, Northumberland accounted for three out of the four news-items covered, two of these being rural/ northern Northumberland. A group needed rescuing from the causeway across to Holy Island (because they were stranded by the rising tide) and there was a piece on the flattened trees at Wallington (not far from Scots Gap) that will still need to be cleared away after Storm Arwen and the lost trees replanted. Blyth also featured in the bulletin. Normally, rural Northumberland gets one piece of news-coverage out of ten on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria), though there does seem to be an increase in coverage of the county over recent months, the last two days of coverage is unusual.

Of course, Storm Arwen affected mainly rural areas in the North East, parts of Cumbria and indeed northwards into Scotland, although plenty in the larger towns and cities near the coast also saw extensive damage to property. In the North East, places like Peterlee on the Durham Coast and Berwick-upon-Tweed in North Northumberland suffered extensively: But rural County Durham and rural Northumberland have been better-covered these last two nights on BBC1 Look North: Do programmers finally realise that in the large, mainly rural area within BBC1 Look North’s (NE/ Cumbria) transmission area that they need to cover the outlying rural areas near the northern end of the transmission area better than they have. Cumbria seems to be getting a bit more coverage from BBC1 Look North too. If so, that is a very welcome step in the right direction, although (last night’s and tonight’s news-coverage excepted) BBC1 Look North is still a long way from providing good all-round coverage for rural and northern Northumberland: As far as I am aware, programmers for BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) still have no intention of going over the Border into the Scottish Borders to cover major happenings there for the benefit of North Northumbrians.

Regional TV in North Yorkshire and We Are England Regional TV Programming.

Unfortunately, it also seems improvements to coverage of Cumbria, and of rural and North Northumberland and rural County Durham on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) has come at the expense of coverage of rural North Yorkshire. I do not know if this is a part of a subtle policy towards pushing viewers in northern and mid- North Yorkshire towards tuning into BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) rather than BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria), but if the BBC wishes to go down that route that is going to be much to the detriment to folk who live in small towns like Hawes, Richmond, Leyburn and Whitby because what happens in Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield is not- in any way- local to those areas. And BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) is dominated by coverage of urban West and South Yorkshire, which together with northern Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (that also get covered in that BBC1 Regional News- service) has a rather higher population in the transmission area than that for BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) in its transmission area, and that’s with the latter including most of North Yorkshire in the BBC1 North East/ Cumbria transmission area!

Viewers living in areas around the northern Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors would do well to resist any such moves, and it is to be expected that programmers for BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) realise that the 500,000 folk living in mid and northern North Yorkshire have stronger ties with Teesside (which, like their communities) was part of the old North Riding of Yorkshire, and indeed with the wider North East of England, and that half a million folk (almost one sixth of the population of the entire transmission area) would very much appreciate continued (and better) all-round coverage of their communities and their county in Regional TV bulletins.

This brings me on to the subject of BBC1 Regional TV programming with regards to North Yorkshire more generally. A recent, very serious development has been the amalgamation of the BBC1 Regions across England into just six super-Regions for the BBC’s We Are England documentary series. The BBC1 Yorkshire transmission Region has been amalgamated with the BBC1 East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire transmission Region and the BBC1 North West transmission Region for the We Are England documentaries. In other words a huge super-Region stretching from the East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Coast right across the Pennines to Merseyside, Cheshire and the Lancashire Coast has been created to- in the words of the BBC- provide programming on “National Issues through a Local lens.”! This massive BBC super-Region also includes northern parts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and the Isle of Man! Quite what is local about Blackpool or Nantwhich to someone living in York or Harrogate (at the north-east edge of this massive BBC1 Super-Region) is a mystery. The distance by road from Mablethorpe (on the Lincolnshire Coast) to Peel, on the Isle of Man (and which is not part of England at all) is over 270 miles, but both places are in the same BBC1 Super-Region with the documentary series providing a “Local” slant on National issues! You may as well scrap the English BBC1 Regions altogether for We Are England and call it local because it’s BBC England!

Northern North Yorkshire is fortunate, along with North East England in being part of the one BBC1 Region that has not been merged with other BBC1 Regions for the We Are England series. However, for the south of North Yorkshire, viewers who get little local coverage from BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) will get almost nothing- whilst at the same time being told about Merseyside, west Lancashire and Greater Manchester. As Rudyard Kipling once said “West is West, East is East, and Never ‘Twain Shall Meet!”: Yorkshire and the North West have distinct, totally different Regional identities and many of the large numbers of viewers who live in the Yorkshire Region would be quite hostile to the idea of getting lots of news about Lancashire and Merseyside, let alone sharing a TV Region across the Pennines- and vice- versa, Lancastrians and Scousers largely do not want to have news about (let alone be in a TV Region with) Yorkshire. This is not just about the legacy of the War of the Roses almost 600 years ago, but the fact that these are two distinct- and large- geographical regions with several million people in each of them. Yorkshire and North West England have markedly different climates (Yorkshire is much drier overall and, in winter colder, in summer warmer), two totally different coastlines, and completely different regional affinities culturally and historically.

There is an argument for folk living near the Yorkshire/ Lancashire- Greater Manchester border having overlap coverage, so that viewers there gain better all-round news-coverage. In the west of North Yorkshire, for instance, viewers in places like Skipton or Hawes may be interested in what is happening over the border in eastern Lancashire or the Sedbergh/ Kendal area of South Cumbria, respectively. But that is an argument for news-coverage not to stop at transmission boundaries, and in fact the need for more localised all-round news-coverage, or indeed local documentary coverage (i.e., of happenings from within an hour’s drive or train journey of where one lives- from places all around the compass of where one’s community is) is best served by having smaller TV Regions: Skipton being in this huge BBC1 Super-region from the mouth of the Humber to the Isle of Man for the BBC’s We Are England series means that the immediate area is unlikely to feature in Regional documentary coverage, and there will be a marked reduction in output that’s going to be local in any way.

In terms of BBC1 Regional TV News-coverage there is a strong case for places like Ingleton, Settle and as far south as Skipton to be transferred from BBC1 North West Regional TV (that much of far west North Yorkshire gets!) to the BBC1 North East/ Cumbria TV Region- on the grounds that news-happenings about South Cumbria and North Yorkshire, and as far north as Teesdale in County Durham is rather more relevant to those areas than Greater Manchester/ Merseyside coverage- with some news about (mostly South) Lancashire! That is because the western Yorkshire Dales is a rural area, for which the mostly metropolitan coverage of Greater Manchester and Merseyside from BBC1 North West Tonight is irrelevant to the area. This area should not be in the BBC1 Yorkshire TV Region either because that is mostly coverage of urban West and South Yorkshire, with bits of northern Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire for good measure- again, not local and also largely topically-inappropriate for the western Yorkshire Dales.

Nevertheless, not in one’s worst nightmares about BBC1 and/ or ITV.Plc mothballing/ merging TV Regions did I ever think BBC1 would have a massive super-Region stretching from the mouth of the Humber and the Lincolnshire Wolds to the Isle of Man! I thought the worst that was likely to happen was the BBC amalgamating BBC1 North East/ Cumbria with BBC1 Yorkshire and BBC1 East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire, but at least keeping separate BBC1 North West and BBC1 North East Regions of England! Viewers in North East England have had a lucky escape, it would seem. Alone in England, the BBC1 North East/ Cumbria Region has escaped being included with other BBC1 Regions for the BBC’s We Are England documentaries. Viewers in southern North Yorkshire have not been so lucky because they get BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire), so their “local” documentaries in the We Are England series could be about Lincolnshire, Cheshire, The Wirral or Blackpool: Not only is this not local, but the good North Yorkshire folk who live in York, Malton or even as far north-east as Scarborough (on the North Sea Coast who get this programming) would probably find being subjected to what they were told was “Local” documentary coverage of Lancashire, Liverpool and Cheshire quite offensive!

So what can local viewers who live in North Yorkshire do about the lack of coverage on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria)? I would firstly suggest writing to BBC1 Look North in Newcastle by email at look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk. Explain that you would like more coverage of your local area, not just about Newcastle, Sunderland or Northumberland. If you live in the northern half of North Yorkshire make very clear that you do not want to be moved to the BBC1 Yorkshire Region because most of the areas covered would not be local to you and, being part of a transmission area with a higher population, that would further dilute what little coverage you get. Remind programmers that most of North Yorkshire was part of the old North Riding of Yorkshire that also included Teesside and extended up to the River Tees- covering parts of what is now County Durham. If your pleas fall on deaf ears, you can write to your local MP: Happily if you live in the Richmond, Swaledale and Wensleydale areas your own MP happens to be the new Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Sir Rishi Sunak, MP! If you write to him, remind him to use his position as Prime Minister to make the BBC cover more rural parts of the North East- such as North Yorkshire and rural Northumberland- rather better than it has to date! The BBC Charter could, for instance, be up-dated to require the BBC to spend a minimum portion of it’s resources (say £500 million annually) on providing Regional TV services and much more localised Regional documentaries than We Are England.

Your MP’s address, and it is always better to write rather than send an email (so it is not intercepted by secretaries or Spam-bots) is: House of Commons, LONDON. SW1A 0AA. Writing a letter in this day and age, especially with the cost of a first-class stamp nearing £1.00, conveys a greater sense of urgency than it once did. Even with the Cost-of-Living crisis £1,00 will not break the bank but do mark your letter F.A.O. [Your MP] and URGENT. Get your family and friends to write too, if they are local.

If you have friends or family who live in the south of North Yorkshire they can write to BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) to request more coverage of their communities, and indeed to request more coverage of all of North Yorkshire (even the parts north of the transmission boundary) at the following e-mail address: look.north@bbc.co.uk. It is vital that they convey that they are unhappy with being part of a huge Super-Region that stretches from the Lincolnshire Coast to Merseyside- and as far as the Isle of Man for the We Are England documentary series if the BBC is to realise anything is seriously amiss with their Super-Region plans: The Yorkshire and Humber, and North West England Regions are different regions with very different climates, culture and coastlines and that the BBC should find the recources to keep seperate BBC1 Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire Regions and that of BBC1 North West at all times, and it is vital that this is conveyed to the BBC. It must be made clear to BBC Regional programmers that such a big TV Super-Region cannot provide local coverage of issues in any Documentary across such a vast area astride the Pennines- and some 270 miles by road from the West coast of the Isle of Man to the Lincolnshire coast. If the BBC won’t deal with the concerns of viewers in southern North Yorkshire in a satisfactory way they must write to (not just email) the local MP to explain that they are being put in a We Are England BBC1 Super-Region with Cheshire, Liverpool, and the Isle of Man for the “National Issues through a Local Lens” (as the BBC advertise), that there is nothing at all local about Cheshire, Merseyside or west Lancashire- or indeed Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire- to where folk live! One’s MP’s address to write to- is to the House of Commons at the address above.

If the local MP cannot persuade the BBC to see sense, then southern North Yorkshire viewers should boycott the We Are England series, or watch it via the BBC1 North East/ Cumbria Region- which is available on Sky Channel 955 (details here: https://www.mediamole.co.uk/entertainment/broadcasting/information/sky-full-channels-list-epg-numbers-and-local-differences_441957.html). In fact, viewers can pick up BBC1 NE/ Cumbria over a surprisingly wide area of southern North Yorkshire from their TV aerials if they have a clear view north, and at least the stand-alone BBC1 North East/ Cumbria version of We Are England has a rather higher likelihood of covering something about North Yorkshire in it’s coverage than the vast Super-Region version broadcast from Lincolnshire to Cheshire, to the Isle of Man. If viewers who live just north of Leeds do decide to do this, they should tell BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) that this is what they are doing to get a more regionally-appropriate BBC1 “Local Documentary” coverage!

So serious is the BBC lumping Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in with North West England (and the Isle of Man) for We Are England, that if one has friends and family living anywhere north and east of Leeds one should tell them- if they have Sky TV- to tune into Sky Channel 955 for BBC1 NE/ Cumbria for a less-offending version of We Are England, that’s if they really want to watch it. Moreover, the BBC1 signal for BBC1 North East/ Cumbria does- where the horizon is clear to the north- reach as far south as Leeds and as far as Scunthorpe. Viewers could watch the stand-alone North East version of We Are England, and have their regional sensibilities less-offended than by watching the version for Lincolnshire, north-east Midlands, Yorkshire, almost all North West England and Isle of Man!! Viewers just north of Leeds and Scunthorpe can do this by just swivelling their TV aerials to point North, so that the TV aerial picks up the signal from the Bilsdale transmitter (transmitting BBC1 NE/ Cumbria), not from Emley Moor (transmitting the Grand We Are England Super-Region “Local documentaries” emcompassing the vast majority of North West England (North Cumbria excepted), the Isle of Man, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and NE Midlands!!).

If you have your friends who live in the affected areas feel the need to swivel TV aerials to point north (to protect regional sensibilities from being offended in the We are England “local” series), they must email the BBC in Leeds to let them know that they are doing this- and why! The email address, as above, is: look.north@bbc.co.uk. The BBC needs dissuading from any suggestion that it is Okay for people living in North Yorkshire- or indeed across the Yorkshire Region- to be effectively forced to watch “Local” documentaries that are going to be largely about Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire and to be told that it is their “Local Documentary” from BBC1! This needs to happen soon, and if you live in the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Rishi Sunak, MP’s Constituency of Richmond and have friends who live just north of Leeds (who are forced to watch this Super-Region We Are England programming) you can request that he uses his position as Prime Minister to make the BBC provide geographic-appropriate news and local Documentary Programming for folk across North Yorkshire and the wider region.

In the meantime, viewers in North Yorkshire can use the power of market competition to obtain better Regional TV-coverage. ITV1 News Tyne Tees covers the county better than BBC1 Look North (NE/Cumbria) because the latter has to cater for viewers in Cumbria too, and the news is more geographic appropriate for folk living nearer to Teesside and along the North Yorkshire coast. Viewers in the northern Yorkshire Dales may get a better mix of all-round news-coverage from ITV1 News Tyne Tees then waiting for a couple of hours to get ITV Border’s Lookaround from the ITV1 Border website- by which time the programme will (usually) have been uploaded (details here: https://www.itv.com/news/border): ITV1 Border’s Lookaround covers Cumbria extremely well and it will occasionally touch on the western Yorkshire Dales; notwithstanding that there is some coverage from just over the Border into (mostly south-west) Scotland it is the go-to station for folk in north-western North Yorkshire for one if one wants to know what is happening to the north-west of them.

Likewise, viewers in rural west and north-west Northumberland (i.e. around Otterburn) can get news about Cumbria and just over the Scottish border into south-west Scotland from ITV1 Border Lookaround, which they can get from the ITV1 Border Website after a couple of hours if they cannot get the signal from their television.

Viewers along the North Yorkshire Coast can also watch That’s TV North Yorkshire if they have Freeview (Channel 7). The Website has more details here: http://www.thats.tv/north-yorkshire/. Viewers nearer York and Harrogate can also watch That’s TV York (Freeview Channel 8), website details here: http://www.thats.tv/york/. Both the That’s TV local news-services air at 6.pm and provide ten minutes of bespoke local news-coverage of the respective local areas. Viewers who feel they should need to watch these for effective local news-coverage would do well to drop a line to BBC1 Look North (Yorkshire) or BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) -which one depends upon which is your default BBC1 Regional TV News is- to explain why one feels it is necessary to do this- i.e., because the BBC does not provide effective local news-coverage across North Yorkshire!

Only when viewers who live in rural Northumberland and in North Yorkshire switch over and find more local news-programming- and tell the BBC why they are doing this- are Regional TV Programmers, whether for BBC Regional TV News, or for “Local Documentaries” in big BBC1 Super-Regions, liable to sit up and take real notice of viewers. Then they might not only reverse these disastrous changes to put parts of North Yorkshire in a huge BBC Super-Region, but perhaps seriously consider how large rural counties like North Yorkshire gain better local news-coverage than viewers get today. The same applies for viewers who live in northern Northumberland although, thankfully, viewers there have not yet been put in a huge BBC1 Super-Region.

Viewers in the Berwick-upon-Tweed area may still consider pointing their TV aerials north-west to get That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland to get news from the eastern Scottish Borders and towards Edinburgh (Freeview Channel 8) if they can get the signal from either the Selkirk transmitter, or from the Craigkelly transmitter in Fife (near the coast north of the Firth of Forth). If viewers there cannot get That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland, then Scottish TV (STV) News at Six uploads clips of news stories about those parts of Scotland to this Website: https://news.stv.tv/news-at-six, so there are means and ways of finding out what is happening to the north of you. You can also watch ITV1 News Tyne Tees to get some coverage of Northumberland, though unfortunately there’s never a lot, so your best chance of getting all-round local news is watching That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland (Freeview Channel 8) or looking through the Scottish TV News at Six website, then watching ITV1 News Tyne Tees to get the news locally to the south of you- when it is loaded up on the ITV1 Tyne Tees Website (here: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees): Unfortunately That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland and ITV1 News Tyne Tees both go live at 6.pm on week-days!

Should you feel the need to do any of this, do email BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) at look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk and ITV1 News Tyne Tees at amyandian@itv.com. Tell them why, i.e. poor local coverage of Northumberland and no overlap coverage into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh: Explain to the BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV News- services in the North East that Berwick-upon-Tweed and northernmost Northumberland are actually closer to Edinburgh than to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and that North Northumbrian communities have strong historical and cultural links with the Scottish Borders and towards Edinburgh: For instance, that the ancient county of Berwickshire- of which Berwick-upon-Tweed was the county town- extends across a significant part of what is today north-eastern parts of the Scottish Borders!

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