Geographically- appropriate Regional Television News in Northumberland

9th March 2021

Dear Readers

Recently, there has been more coverage of Northumberland on BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria). On this evening’s Look North there was coverage of the proposed dualling of the A1 through Northumberland up to the Scottish Border and the re-opening of Belford station in northern Northumberland as part of a £7 billion infrastructure package over the next ten years. Also covered on tonight’s Look North was the row over a proposed 180 foot (55 metre) high steel structure to be erected near Kirkwhelpington, at the foot of the Cheviot hills in northern Northumberland. This is good news for Northumbrian viewers of Regional Television, but three news-items out of ten on just a couple of days then nothing local for days afterwards does not make a good Local and Regional Television service that Northumberland’s viewers can rely upon!

A good, reliable local and Regional news- service for a particular community is one that provides upwards of 30% of coverage of places within a 25 mile radius, or within half an hour’s travel time (whichever is the greater distance) of a community, with at least ten percent coverage of more significant happenings up to an hour’s travel time away (in all directions). A good Local and Regional news- service would also address issues and matters that directly affect people in the communities in question, provide interest and esteem viewers in those communities with Northern pride: This is done by providing coverage that recognises their Northern latitude and their geographic setting. This really does not happen for viewers who live north of Morpeth.

The Utopian ideal for a Regional News service is 80% of coverage within 25 miles or half an hour’s travel time, with just 20% covering more Regional and significant happenings further out and up to one hour’s drive or train ride away, or 50 miles away (whichever is the greater distance). The inner zone covers areas that are Immediate Local- within this zone are places that people in the community concerned would travel to on a daily or regular basis- to visit friends, close-by family relatives, go shopping or commute to work. In short, it covers those places that people in a community would be most interested in. Further away, but still within an hour’s travel time or 50 miles (whichever is the greater distance) are those places that people in the community would visit several times in a year, but without involving an overnight stay: These are those picturesque places that people might go out to on a nice day on a country drive, go to on the coast on a summer day, to meet up with close relatives who are a bit further away- or go on major shopping trips. This outer zone would be considered to be Regionally Local: Folk in a community would still be interested in (and like to be informed of) significant happenings in such areas over half an hour’s drive away but less than an hours drive (or train journey) away.

The Utopian ideal for Regional Television of 80% of news within half an hour’s drive is extremely unlikely to be deliverable on cost grounds for viewers in northern Northumberland- for someone in, say, Alnwick that would mean 80% of news just about Northumberland provided by a bespoke Local Television service. Would local folk pay £30 more per annum in their Television Licence to pay for it- there are just over 100,000 households in Northumberland and they would all have to pay this to raise the £3 million per annum to fund a new Regional News service with new state-of-the-art studios based in Alnwick or Morpeth, recording equipment and reporters? It seems unlikely that people would be willing to fund it, particularly given the backlash over over 75’s having to pay for their Television Licences! But the BBC could be required to trim it’s World Service provision in countries hostile to the UK and switch off totally between 1.am and 5.am (like they used to)- night owls have a plethora of other digital channels providing films and sport in 2021! The BBC could then use the savings to fund Regional News opt-outs for areas like North Northumberland- so that there would be 15 minutes of much more localised content for viewers in places like Alnwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Wooler- complete with overlap coverage north into the Scottish Borders thereby recognising the strong links between Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

However, for North Northumbrians, there is no way that the two main Regional News services that they get from ITV Tyne Tees or BBC North East/ Cumbria comes close to this ideal. The Regional News output is also a bit slanted towards the metropolitan urban concerns of Tyneside and Teesside (i.e. Sport, regeneration of city centres or drug problems); or larger ex-heavy-industry issues like unemployment, run down town- centres and cruddy- looking estates pertaining to former mining towns like Seaham and Consett- where the issues addressed are a long way from the northern rural issues affecting Border communities in places like Otterburn, Wooler, Norham or Cornhill-on-Tweed in far northern or north-west Northumberland: There the matters are those pertaining to hill- farming, tourism and- indeed- whether cross- Border trade could be affected by Scotland becoming an independent country.

Whether the flagship North East England Regional News bulletins satisfy the criteria for what people living in the North East expect of their Regional News bulletins, whether it satisfies the criteria of being local and about places that folk frequent or addresses issues that affect them on a regular basis does depend where one lives: Viewers of Regional Television who live east of the A1 and near the urban conurbations of Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland, Tynemouth or Middlesbrough will find there is sufficient “Immediate Local” coverage about matters that impact them- with some coverage of major happenings in places further away- to be happy with the content. ITV1 Tyne Tees’ Tyne Tees News Tonight is probably the go- to Regional News programme for folk living east of the A1 as more of the content will be Immediate Local and not diluted with some coverage of Cumbria (as is the case with BBC Look North). Further to the west of the A1, the communities of the Durham dales, the northern Yorkshire Dales and the south side of the Tyne Valley in southern Northumberland would get a more local service from BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) since what happens in Sunderland and Teesside will become less of a concern, but parts of Cumbria will be within an hour’s drive and viewers would only find out what is happening in North and East Cumbria from BBC Look North.

However, it is clear that you get north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and north of the A69, the proportion of the “Local News” from either BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees’ Tyne Tees News Tonight falls off rapidly with every few miles travelled north and north-west- such that by the time you get north as far as Alnwick typically less than 20% of the news- coverage is about what happens within half an hour’s drive and with both the main Regional News outlets for North East England some 40 to 50% of the coverage concerns happenings over an hour’s drive or train journey (or over 50 miles) away to the south: There is a big skew in that coverage- it is almost exclusively about places well to the south (or far to the south-west in the case of BBC Look North coverage of Cumbria). The news will also often concern metropolitan or industrial- town matters about shops, drug crime, high-street regeneration, Sports events or crime-ridden estates- a long way from the concerns of farmers at the foot of the Cheviots or fishermen working in Craster.

There are two things that viewers living in rural and North Northumberland can do to try and rectify this state of affairs: The first thing is to write to point out that one does not find the news- coverage on BBC Look North or on ITV1 Tyne Tees particularly local or relevant. For BBC Look North write to: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk. For ITV Tyne Tees write to pamandian@itv.com. If you are not satisfied with the reply you can then email OFCOM you can complain online here https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/?a=96944.

Secondly, viewers can seek out alternative Regional News programming that might provide more local coverage of where they live or about areas of interest within an hour’s drive that one’s official Regional News outlets will not cover. In the case of communities in northern and north-west Northumberland it is possible if one has Sky Television or Freeview to tune in to ITV Border (Scotland) which often covers North Northumberland as well as the Scottish Borders in output in their flagship week-night news- programme Lookaround. If one is not tech-savvy they can get their Sky or Freeview technician in for a one- off £150 to tweak the relevant digi-box so that ITV Border (Scotland) is picked up instead of ITV Tyne Tees. There is also a local You Tube service called Northumberland TV (link here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRjaNG8hxEey9jHfGPaSuVg). One can then watch these and supplement it with BBC Look North, to find out what is happening to the south- or just watch Northumberland TV on You Tube and ITV Border (Scotland)- which produces two Regional programmes regularly for viewers in southern Scotland, namely Border Life and Representing Border.

If you do decide to switch to ITV Border (Scotland) and Northumberland TV then be sure to let BBC Look North and ITV Tyne Tees programmers know you are seeking out these alternative sources for local news because that is more relevant to your community: That will maximise the impact of what you write to BBC Look North and ITV1 Tyne Tees when you complain about the amount of North of Tyne coverage- because the programmers will be worried about losing viewers and (in the case of ITV1 Tyne Tees- revenue).

Scottish Independence will affect whether North Northumbrians can find out what is happening across the Scottish Border on Regional Television news.

2nd January 2021

Dear Readers

If you live in a Northumberland community close to the Scottish Border, in towns like Cornhill on Tweed, Wooler and Otterburn, the now real possibility of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom and becoming a nation in its own right might not occur to you as something of real concern. However, with polls now showing a majority of Scots would vote to cut ties with the rest of Britain in a new Scottish Referendum on Independence, it is no longer an academic consideration: It could well happen in the next few years, particularly with the Scottish National Party riding high in Scottish polls- which suggest the Scottish National Party will get more than 50% of the vote in May 2021’s Holyrood Elections- enough for the Scottish Nationalists to get a landslide victory, especially as they are far ahead of the Scottish Tories (in second place and projected by recent polls to get just 20% of the vote in the Holyrood Elections).

So, the Scottish National Party, who are consistently agitating for a second Referendum on Independence because “Scotland has been dragged out of the European Union against her Will”, as so many Scottish Nationalists intone: If (as is likely) the Scottish National Party led by Nicola Sturgeon win big, they will strongly assert they have a very strong mandate to have that Referendum (less than seven years after Scotland narrowly voted “No!” to Independence in September 2014)- and the British Government will come under intense pressure to grant the Scottish administration based in Edinburgh their wish for what will likely be the second Independence Referendum in less than ten years. And given the current support for Scottish Independence the Scottish Nationalists have a high chance of winning.

So,you might think, what has this got to do with folk living in Northumberland watching the Regional News? Plenty, as it turns out because if Scotland breaks away from the United Kingdom the England- Scotland border will become a real national border between two separate countries. And since Britain has now left the European Union and the Scottish Nationalists dont like this, there is a fair chance that the Scottish Government will not only demand Northumbrians produce their passports if they wish to cross the Scottish Border to explore southern Scotland on a fine summer’s day, but that there may be visa requirements to visit Scotland too. There will also be Scottish Border check-points on the A68 at Carter Bar and on the A1 just north of Berwick upon Tweed, as well as on the Union Chain Bridge (rather an oxymoron after Scottish Independence!) at Horncliffe, just south-west of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

This will impact the Regional News service in the ITV Border (Scotland) and ITV Border (England) transmission area: It is almost certain that the Nationalist Scottish Government would ban ITV Border from transmitting news to homes in southern Scotland, certainly any relay transmitters on the Scottish side of the Border would be disabled and prevented from transmitting ITV Border (either English or Scottish versions) on Scottish Government instruction: This is because the Scottish Government (as led by the Scottish Nationalists) will deem ITV to be a British (or English) entity and, thus, unsuitable for Scotland. So ITV Border will have the population of its transmission area halved overnight, it would really just comprise ITV Border (England) which is produced for viewers in northern and central Cumbria along with the Haltwhistle area of south-west Northumberland. This means that ITV.Plc will deem its ITV Border region totally unviable and will likely merge what remains of it with the ITV Tyne Tees Television Region. That will lead to Cumbrians receiving mainly North-East based output (as with BBC Look North for the North East/ Cumbria).

For North Northumbrians, increased pressure on an extended ITV Tyne Tees Cumbria Regional News- service means higher pressure to cover Cumbria in news-output whilst North Northumbrians will end up even more neglected in any news-coverage than they are now. But this does not stop there.

Currently, viewers in northern Northumberland can get their televisions re-tuned, and get their Sky digi-box tweaked (with the help of a Sky technician) so that they can pick up ITV Border (Scotland)- which covers the Berwick-upon-Tweed area and southern Scotland in output if they wish. Thus, these viewers can currently watch ITV Border (Scotland) to find out what is going on just north of their community then switch to BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) or have recorded ITV News Tyne Tees, which these North Northumbrian viewers can then watch. With Scotland becoming an independent country in its own right all that changes, since ITV Border (Scotland) will no longer exist: Scottish Television (STV) East Scotland news centred on Edinburgh will (likely) be extended to the Selkirk transmitter in the Scottish Borders but it won’t cover northern Northumberland in output and coverage of the Scottish Borders and Lothian will be much- diluted by coverage of Edinburgh, Stirling, the Fife area. What’s more, it is likely that the Nationalist Scottish Government will have the Muxes and transmission frequencies changed so that any English aerials and televisions struggle to pick up the signal. North Northumbrians may well have to buy Scottish televisions (at considerable cost) to pick up news about what is happening over the Scottish Border!

For northern Northumbrian viewers, if and when Scotland becomes Independent the only real leverage with which to get more local news-coverage out of BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) or ITV News Tyne Tees will be two local Northumberland- based (currently You tube) Television stations, for which the technology should soon exist to get it on your television (by DVD if not!). They are NorthumberlandTV (website here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRjaNG8hxEey9jHfGPaSuVg) and for those in Northumberland’s Tyne Valley, HexhamTV (website here: https://hexhamtv.com/). One hopes that by the time Scotland declares full Independence from the United Kingdom at least one of these Northumberland Television “channels” will have progressed to something providing daily local news- and watchable on a television!

Thus, North Northumbrians will then still be able to write to ITV Tyne Tees and BBC North East Cumbria’s News Programmers to put pressure on them to provide more local news-coverage for Northumberland- and to also provide some overlap coverage into southern Scotland- perhaps from “Our Contact in Edinburgh” (this could be a news-feature): Easy cross-Border communication will likely no longer be possible so the North East’s Regional News Producers would likely rely on covert communication from someone living in a small flat in Edinburgh or Selkirk to provide Scottish Borders’ news: Programmers will thus need much more persuading than the great amount they would need now to provide any overlap cross- Border southern Scotland news-coverage!!! But the home-grown Northumberland- based Television news (if either the two mentioned above become so) then still provides a means of threatening to abandon BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees for a more local service, if they dont up their game.

But the truth is that, were Scotland to become independent with Border Police stationed at Carter Bar or just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, getting news coverage from across the Scottish Border will as likely be even more elusive: If ITV Tyne Tees and BBC Look North refuse to run the gauntlet of having a “Necessary Spy” to report on happenings just across the Scottish Border, outfits such as HexhamTV and NorthumberlandTV are even less likely to have the resources to pay/ encourage someone to risk prosecution in Scotland to provide coverage of happenings just across the Scottish Border! So, for viewers of Regional and Local Television in Northumberland only a full- on one-two punch of threatening to watch a local Northumberland Television station- plus going to the length of getting a Scottish television to pick up southern Scotland news- may persuade either ITV Tyne Tees or BBC North East/Cumbria News Programmers that they need to pay someone good money to provide an item of Scottish Borders’ news as well as to cover locations “North of Tyne” much better so as not to lose potentially over 100,000 of their existing viewers!

In conclusion, for communities along the Scottish Border in north and north-west Northumberland, Scotland becoming independent will sever and damage cross-Border ties that have existed for hundreds of years in other ways: People who live in places like Duns and Eyemouth, over the Border into Scotland will not be able to shop or visit friends and family in Berwick-upon-Tweed. People who live in places like Otterburn, Norham or Wooler will likewise not be able to hop over into the Scottish Borders to visit friends, family members or have a day out in the Scottish Borders like they have done in the past.

For all these reasons, the author of this Website is against Scottish Nationalism leading to them breaking away from the United Kingdom: That’s because it will not just impact on Scotland but on places just south of the Scottish Border too- and if another Referendum on Scottish Independence happens in the next couple of years this Website will, for sure, make a resounding case for Scotland staying part of the United Kingdom on the basis that it will lead to a Hard Border cutting like a knife through and between communities along the Scottish Border: That will really hurt communities in Northumberland and northern Cumbria as well as those on the Scottish side of the Scottish Border.

If Northumbrians vote with their Televisions, both BBC Look North and ITV Tyne-Tees will take notice

14th December 2020

Dear Readers

Viewers of Regional Television in rural Northumberland, which potentially number over 200,000 individuals have a simple recourse if they are fed up with the lack of coverage of their area and the immediate north of them on ITV Tyne Tees or BBC Look North. They can do this in a way that maximises impact and brings about a realisation that the northern hinterlands of North East England need more coverage- if they are not to lose viewers and (potentially) revenue.

The measure is a one- two punch that will have maximum impact on programmers at BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees: The first part involves viewers writing to the Heads of Programming to explain why they are unhappy at the regional output- that rural Northumberland is scarcely covered whilst almost all the news concerns locations an hour or more to the south by car. Then the viewers of rural Northumberland state that unless improvements are made, with Northumberland getting much more coverage- complete with overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders- then they will stop watching BBC Look North and ITV Tyne Tees, that they will do their utmost to get ITV Border (Scotland) that does cover northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders in output.

There are also means and ways that viewers can get much more localised news if they live in rural Northumberland: There is Northumberland TV (see:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRjaNG8hxEey9jHfGPaSuVg ), which is on You Tube- so you can watch it if you have Internet. There’s Hexham TV, which has news in and around Hexham in the rural Tyne Valley, it is again a You Tube channel (see here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk0s7GfPKbVGRHHjPTH_BcQ) and, of course, ITV Border (Scotland). If you live in Otterburn, in northwest Northumberland, you could watch Hexham TV on the Internet after tuning in to ITV Border (Scotland) from Sky or Freeview (or you could get this off the ITV Hub, if you have internet). If you lived in Wooler, in North Northumberland a Northumberland TV off You Tube followed by ITV Border (Scotland) off ITV Hub will also give you much better localised and all- round coverage than anything BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees will provide for rural Northumberland.

Of course, it is not ideal. You have to go onto You Tube on the Internet to get local news, but if you want to watch news on the television watching ITV Border (Scotland) does cover the Scottish Borders and the Berwick-upon-Tweed area. It offers a practical, more bearable alternative to receiving 95% of coverage about places sixty or more miles to the south of your community if you live north of Alnwick. In time, you could grow used to these more local news outlets, if you were not getting it from elsewhere.

Tell your Regional News producers based in the North East of England about the more local alternatives to the so-called local Regional News that you can tune in to receive on the Internet, that you will be watching them from now on- unless they increase their amount of North of Tyne news coverage. If enough rural Northumberland viewers made this stand, Regional programme producers would have to act for fear of losing viewers and- in the process (in the case of ITV Tyne Tees)- advertising revenue.

Contact details for Heads of News for BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees are here:

For BBC Look North. Rozina Breen is Head of News for BBC North- Email: rozina.breen@bbc.co.uk

For ITV Tyne Tees, Michaela Byrne is the Head of News and Programmes for both ITV Tyne Tees and ITV Border, so she is a good point of contact. Her email address is: michaela.byrne@itv.com

In the Very Unfortunate event that ITV Border is scrapped in ITV Cuts, there will still be STV East that northern Northumberland’s Viewers could get

Dear Readers,

My previous post looked at how viewers of North East Regional Television who live in northern Northumberland could obtain more localised news- coverage and also find out about significant happenings on the Scottish side of the Scottish Border (https://looknorthmustlooknorth.org/2020/10/31/some-north-northumbrians-can-get-itv-border-scotland-if-they-twiddle-the-signal-reception-on-their-televisions-and-point-their-aerials-north/). Today, there is the option of tweaking aerials, and getting Sky Television or Freeview to get ITV Border (Scotland). But what if, heaven forbid, ITV.plc’s Management- as a result of the Coronavirus Recession reducing their advertisement revenues- decide to mothball ITV Border altogether? If that happens northern and central Cumbria would be put in the ITV Tyne Tees Region whilst the Scottish Borders are put in the Scottish Television Eastern Region (STV East, which encompasses Edinburgh and the Lothian areas).

If that disastrous situation looked like unfolding, this Website would campaign rigorously to save ITV Border, which has served most of Cumbria, southern Scotland and (until 2006, when the area was transferred to the ITV Tyne Tees transmission area) northernmost Northumberland very well over the years: That is a promise!

If, however OFCOM approved and allowed the mothballing of the ITV Border Region- and this went ahead, it need not be a complete disaster for northern Northumbrian viewers. It is almost certain that STV East (which does not have a huge population in it’s transmission area) will take on the Scottish Borders- and probably cover them quite well. It is certain that the Kelso transmitter that today transmit the signal for ITV Border (Scotland) will carry STV East if the Scottish Borders were transferred into an expanded STV East Region.

This means that those viewers of Regional Television in northern Northumberland who can get ITV Border (Scotland) via Sky or by twiddling the reception knobs on their televisions (and pointing their aerials north) will be able to pick up STV East- which will cover Edinburgh, East and West Lothian and the Scottish Borders and the area around Dunfirmline (north of the Firth of Forth). This means North Northumbrians will be able to tune into STV (East) at 6.pm to get the news to the north of them and then to BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) to get the Regional News to the south of them.

There would still be a higher chance of getting more immediately local news each night, even though STV East would (almost certainly) never cover Northumberland. Places such as Berwick-upon-Tweed, Norham and Cornhill-upon-Tweed are within a few miles of the Scottish Border where there is a high chance of getting news of significant local happenings within 20 miles to the north- and which may have a very direct bearing on folk living in northernmost Northumberland.

ITV Tyne Tees would- in all likelihood- be even less likely to cover Northumberland well if they also had to cover most of Cumbria (like BBC Look North does today) following the abolition of ITV Border: There would be West Cumbrians complaining bitterly that they were getting 90% of irrelevant North East news and so (as with BBC Look North) Regional programmers would feel compelled to ensure Cumbria gets more coverage. Lower-populated northern Northumberland would be a lower priority.

This is where North Northumbrians persistently switching en-masse to receive STV (East) would have a big impact: If up to 200,000 North Northumbrians to switch over to STV East (to watch “STV News at Six” (Edinburgh version)) would cause the expanded ITV Tyne- Tees- Cumbria Regional Programmers a problem: They would lose up to 10% of their viewers overnight (with a threatened loss of revenue)- and it is that which should then force them to prioritise Northumberland (with overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders) to hold onto their most northern viewers. North East Regional News programmers will have to make sure that all viewers in all parts of North East England (including right up near Berwick-upon-Tweed) are happy with their news- coverage before worrying about viewers over 100 miles away on the other side of the Pennines (and who, arguably, should be getting a North West Regional News- service tailored to their needs).

I conclude by reminding North Northumbrian viewers of Regional Television that whether the alternative of ITV Border (Scotland) remains in existence or not, there will still be a viable alternative to tune into to find out what is happening to the north of them. The option of threatening to abandon ITV Tyne Tees (or an expanded ITV Tyne- Tees- Cumbria) for a Scottish-flavoured Regional News- service- to bring pressure to bear on North East Regional Programmers to look after their most northerly viewers as well as they look after Geordies and Mackems- will always be there.

Some North Northumbrians CAN get ITV (Border) Scotland if they Twiddle the Signal Reception on their Televisions and point their Aerials NORTH.

THE TRANSMISSION AREA OF ITV BORDER (SCOTLAND). OFFICIALLY ITV BORDER (SCOTLAND) CAN ONLY BE WATCHED ON THE SCOTTISH SIDE OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER. HOWEVER, ITV BORDER SCOTLAND CAN BE PICKED UP IN BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, COLDSTREAM AND CORNHILL ON TWEED (AREAS IN BOTTOM HALF OF THE BLUE SHADING ON THE RIGHT OF THE MAP)

31st October 2020

Dear Readers

A major feature that I return to on this site is the fact that the two main Regional Television News- services that serve North East England, that is ITV Tyne Tees and BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) not only serve Northumberland very poorly, but also that neither Regional Television broadcaster will provide overlap coverage across the Scottish Border into the Scottish Borders. This means that, left with these two main choices of Regional Television, the Northernmost Northumbrian viewers get very little coverage that is really local, let alone it being good all- round news-coverage.

Given the strong links between towns like Berwick upon Tweed and Norham with the Scottish Borders and given that northernmost Northumberland is over sixty miles north of Tyneside and one hundred miles north of Teesside (areas which tend to dominate North East Regional Television News), it is quite unacceptable for viewers in the far north of Northumberland to have a so- called “local” news-service that is largely irrelevant whilst these same viewers do not ever get to hear about significant news events not far to the north of them- or even locally.

However, this Website offers advice and help at-hand. That is, by pointing out that you can get better coverage of northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders if you have a computer with good Internet connection. Sign up to the ITV Hub and make ITV Border (Scottish version) your chosen ITV Region, then you can watch ITV Border (Scotland) which covers Berwick upon Tweed, northernmost Northumberland and the Scottish Borders very well. There is also the odd bit of news about Cumbria and also Dumfries and Galloway, but if you sign up to the Scottish version of ITV Border you will stand a much better chance of finding out about happenings on the Scottish side of the Border and locally in northernmost Northumberland.

When you go onto the ITV Hub, make sure you choose ITV Border (Scotland), not ITV Border (England). One might intuitively go for ITV Border (England) in northern Northumberland- after all you would be on the English side of the Scottish Border- but ITV Border (Scotland) will provide you with a much higher proportion of news that is local, or at least within an hour’s drive of where you live, than will ITV Border (England). ITV Border (England) mainly covers Cumbria and nowhere in Cumbria is local to you if you live in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Seahouses or Wooler! Even Carlisle, in the north of Cumbria, is 84 miles and over two hours’ drive from Berwick-upon-Tweed. So, if you live in northernmost Northumberland, ITV Border (Scotland) would be you go-to Regional Television service for news that is likely to have most relevance to you.

However, if you are a pensioner who is not computer-savvy and only have a television you can still get ITV Border (Scotland) from the Selkirk transmitter if you live near Berwick-upon-Tweed, near Norham and west towards Cornhill-upon-Tweed. You can also pick up ITV Border (Scotland) at Wooler with a good clear view to the north-west and an ability to put your TV aerial up high- and pointing north. You can also pick up ITV Border (Scotland) at Byrness, northwest of Otterburn, in north-west Northumberland with a clear view to the north-west. Make sure your TV-aerial points north-west and get an aerial specialist to do this for you if you don’t feel like climbing onto your roof yourself. Unfortunately, if you live nearer Wooler or at Byrness, you are likely to get a fairly fuzzy black- and- white picture of ITV Border (Scotland), it likely wont be colour and in bad weather you might not get reception at all.

For those viewers living in parts of northern Northumberland a bit further south who have no computer, are not tech- savvy and who do not have Sky or Freeview your situation is bleak: Those living in places like Alnwick, Rochester, Bamburgh, Otterburn, Alwinton and Alnmouth will not be able to pick up ITV Border on their television. If that’s you reading this, then see if you can juggle your finances a bit more to buy Sky Television or upgrade to Freeview. You can get additional ITV Regions added to your Sky TV Digibox or FreeSat Digibox, again if you are not tech-savvy I would advise calling on the services of a Sky TV Specialist. The one off cost will be well worth it if you can get ITV Border (Scotland) and get a news- service that is more localised- and so you can find out what is happening to the north of where you live and not always well to the south of you.

You can then watch ITV Border (Scotland) at 6.pm on weeknights to find out what is happening locally and to the north of you, then you can watch BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) at 6.30 pm to find out what is happening across the more urban North East of England to the south of you. That way, folk living in mid and northern Northumberland are likely to pick up news that is relevant to them and their community, as well as getting the more pan-regional news-coverage across North East England.

If enough Northern Northumbrian folk do this, and then write in to ITV Tyne Tees at ttvnews@itv.com and to BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) at look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk, pointing out that the TV Technician will be coming round to help one watch ITV Border (Scotland) because “Coverage north of Morpeth Hardly Exists” the main North East Regional Television News- providers may start to take more notice of their North Northumbrian viewers- and act to provide a more tailored news-service with some overlap into the Scottish Borders!

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

No News about North, West and Mid Northumberland during the last week on BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees.

Visit Kelso | Bordering on Brilliant | Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders,  Scotland
View of the small town of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, taken from the air. This is somewhere that is very unlikely ever to feature on BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV Tyne Tees unless the good people of Northumberland complain about the lack of coverage of places that are still local to them which are beyond the Regional News services’ transmission boundaries.

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.

Virtually nothing specific on Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

Dear Readers

BBC Look North (covering the North East and northern Cumbria) featured a news- item about health officials in the Scottish Borders expressing concern about rising Coronavirus cases in neighbouring Northumberland: It is perhaps the only significant reference to rural Northumberland this week. The Regional News virtually never gets north of Tyneside and (when it does) its often just a general reference to Northumberland which, as a county, covers most of the geographical area of North East England. The reference to the Scottish Borders is perhaps the first time there has been a significant nod towards recognition of the fact that there are strong cultural and community links across the Border from Northumberland to the Scottish Borders since the summer (when there was a news- report on maintenance of the Union Chain Bridge over the River Tweed- where this marks the boundary between England and Scotland).

Over 200,000 people live in rural North and West Northumberland, many at a sufficient distance from Tyneside and Wearside such that significant happenings just over the border into Scotland have more of a bearing on their lives than what happens in Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Sunderland. A good Regional News service does not stop at the Regional (or national) Border nor at the transmission boundary beyond where one cannot see the Regional Programme in question. Overlap zones, for Regional and local news-coverage are important to ensure that viewers at the margins of the large transmission area in which BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) is received still get good all-round local news- coverage.

Most evenings, rural Northumberland is lucky to get one news- item of coverage (out of – usually- about ten news-items): The only happening reported on BBC Look North referring specifically to part of rural Northumberland this week was that of a fatal road traffic accident when a motorcyclist was killed, near the picturesque town of Bellingham, in the North Tyne valley. For locations that are forty, fifty and even over sixty miles north and north-west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne such a proportion of coverage of Northumberland (without overlap into the Scottish Borders) really does not make for a good local news- service for that northerly part of the English North East.

Regional News Programmers at BBC Look North and ITV Tyne Tees (which is now broadcast to all of Northumberland) would, of course, argue that since rural Northumberland has just over 200,000 people- compared to over three million who live in the vast transmission area stretching from near York in the south right up to Berwick-upon-Tweed: In the case of BBC Look North they would point out that they cover much of Cumbria (also covering a large area) too. However, that is no excuse- a minute could be shaved off the Sports coverage (football fans have other channels they can watch) to make room for news about rural Northumberland.

In the case of BBC Look North the transmission area is indeed huge: It is 150 miles from York up to Berwick-upon-Tweed and over 130 miles from St Bees Head (in West Cumbria) to Redcar, on the coast east of Middlesbrough. The programme is thus broadcast to all of North East England, most of North Yorkshire and most of Cumbria and the cities- Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland, Durham, Middlesbrough, York and Carlisle take the lion’s share of coverage. It means that vast areas of rural Northern England from northern Northumberland to the North Lakes, the North Pennines and the northern Yorkshire Dales are covered acutely thinly. This is why central and southern North Yorkshire- including towns like Malton, Scarborough, and Harrogate- really should be transferred to the BBC Yorkshire Region (which might provide those areas with more relevant coverage) and (certainly) West Cumbria and the area immediately south of Penrith should be transferred to a new BBC North West Region that just covers Cumbria, Lancashire and the Isle of Man (this would be much better for West Cumbria and in keeping with Regional identity): This would then free up air-time (and resources) for BBC Look North to cover Northumberland (complete with overlap into the Scottish Borders) much better.

However, the BBC are unlikely to make provision for covering Northumberland better unless local people write in, and make clear that they feel their local areas are being overlooked. In the first instance you can contact BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) at: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk . To contact ITV Tyne Tees email: ttvnews@itv.com.

15th September 2020: A New Site to focus on Regional Television coverage for the northern North East of England

Dear Readers

I already have a website that draws attention to the deficiencies in Regional Television for viewers of BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire who do not get coverage of the northern half of North West England (i.e. Cumbria). This can be found at https://northwestisnorthwest.org/: Viewers in northern Lancashire and much of South Cumbria live just a bit too far south to receive an excellent signal from ITV Border (which covers Cumbria extremely well) and thus they have a choice between BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports, both of which will often not even mention Cumbria for a week, and they will often fail to cover anything north of Preston in their respective evening bulletins. Moreover, these programmes never cover even serious matters in northern Cumbria for the benefit of their viewers in the south of Cumbria: Thus not all of North West England is covered in Regional News programmes that say they cover North West England and the Isle of Man. I have therefore set up a Website which I am making the focal point for a Campaign to get the BBC and ITV in the North West to provide better local (and all- round) coverage for (potentially one million) viewers who live in a more northerly part of North West England who nevertheless suffer a poor North West Regional news-service.

However, this new Website is dedicated to viewers who live across the North Pennines and who also live in a rural county that extends well to the north of the urban areas of North East England- namely Northumberland. Since northernmost Northumberland was transferred from ITV Border to the ITV Tyne-Tees Region all of Northumberland now has a choice between ITV Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (the North East/ Cumbria version). Both these North East based Regional News services cover Northumberland poorly- one item out of ten news- items will be about rural North, West and Central Northumberland on a good night and there will be nothing north of Tyneside on a poor night. For the good folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed it means that “The News Where You Are”, as the BBC main news-presenter likes to say is sixty or more miles away (and often 100 or more miles away if its something about Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire- or West Cumbria). This is not acceptable for a Regional News- service that purports to serve everyone in North East England.

Rural northern Northumbrians also have strong links with communities across the Border into Scotland- particularly the Scottish Borders: The fact that Berwick Rangers is part of the Scottish Lowland Football League (and were part of the Scottish Professional Football League until last year) is one example of the cross- border ties. Edinburgh is less than an hour away from Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. However, this is not at all recognised by ITV Tyne Tees (the link-up with ITV Border has now been severed, which is actually good for folk living in northern Cumbria and southern Scotland who now get much more localised coverage) and not at all by BBC North East/ Cumbria programmers: Neither of the North-East based Regional News services provide any overlap coverage northwards into the Scottish Borders- which they should so that folk living at the northern margins of the transmission area receive more all-round coverage. This is therefore something that will be covered in posts on this Website and which will feature in the campaign to get Regional Television improved for viewers in Northumberland, so that they not only get more localised news- coverage of their communities but also a better perception of all-round local coverage too.

BBC Look North (North East and Cumbria) must indeed (as the name of the Regional News- programme suggests) Look North- to the often- neglected large rural hinterlands of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders: Hence the name of the Website (https://looknorthmustlooknorth.org/).

Regional News Programmes in Scotland and the North of England need a little ICE in them to enhance their “Northern-ness”

This article was originally published on my website North West is North West (https://northwestisnorthwest.org/) on 19th August 2020

LOOK NORTH MUST LOOK NORTH: An overlap to icy places just a bit to the north of the transmission area for a northern Regional Television service in northern England would not only provide some excitement and interest for viewers, but a little ice would also bring a sense of mystique and respect amongst northern viewers towards their more northerly hinterlands. It helps to affirm to northern viewers of Regional Television that the latitudes of their homes and the places that they frequent are a bit colder, harsher than the more southerly human-dwellers and thus that their Region and they are to be respected. It all helps to affirm and to “Big Up” the Northern Pride that Northern folk have!

I have made the point in recent posts that viewers of Regional Television in northern parts of Britain (i.e. Scotland, North West and North East England) like their news to cover some places further to the north of them but not so much further to the south of them: For example, viewers in Cumbria like some news about southern Scotland but are not happy to get news about Manchester or Liverpool- because this enhances their “Sense of Northernness”. To some extent, the higher the northern latitudes the news content is about the happier they are. But it’s a bit more than that.

Viewers of Regional Television in northern Britain do not just want a Regional News- Programme that gives them the news about their area: They also want their Regional News Programming to offer features that arouse real interest that not only enhances their “Northern superiority” compared to places well to the south of them but which offers a real sense of mystique and excitement with regards to their relative geographical location. Against that, of course, folk who live in (say) North East England and well away from the cities will also want their area covered well, with at least 20% of the news covered being within 25 miles (or half an hour’s drive) of where they live: However, a successful Regional Programme will have regular features and mini-documentaries that really enthuse the viewers.

Local Sports teams, and features like beautiful tourist attractions and countryside will bring some draw- though a Regional News- programme should not have too much Sport as most folk watch the Regional News to get news about their area. Coverage of major football teams can be found on Sky Sports and a whole host of other Sports Channels in 2020, sufficient to satisfy those that want to pursue it. Northern Regional News Programming needs to offer something that is unique to “The North” that cannot be found in other media. That something is related to the fact that places further north and nearer the Arctic have colder climates, have colder weather and this has unique effects on the landscape not readily found in the Midlands, Wales and southern regions of England- and that something is the presence of ice and snow on parts of the landscape in Northern Britain at times of the year when it is rarely (if ever) found in the Midlands and South.

The presence of ice and snow on a northern mountain on a sunny May morning (for instance) brings a unique sparkling beauty to the area- and a clear reminder like no other that the area is closer to the Arctic than London or Birmingham and thus has a colder, tougher climate to match its northerly location. If there are regular features related to this on BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria), BBC North West Tonight, ITV Tyne Tees or ITV Granada it would draw an audience more enthused with the evening bulletins than they are. Tied in with this is the desire of northern viewers to see news or features that enhance their “Northernness” by being about locations up to an hour to the north of them. So what could these features be?

BBC Look North (or ITV Tyne Tees) in the North East of England could have a feature on “The Last Cheviot Snow-Patch at the Top of Bizzle Burn” (730 metres above sea- level) on the north-east side of The Cheviot (summit 815 metres above sea- level), the highest mountain in the Cheviots. In most years, there will be patches of snow lingering until the end of April there. Both BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and BBC North West Tonight could do a feature on “The Lingering Snows of Helvellyn”- patches of snow can be found on the north-facing slopes of this Lake District Mountain (which rises to 948 metres’ elevation) until may in most years- and a showery north-westerly air-stream in late April or early May (common in most springs) will often put a covering of gleaming white snow on the highest mountains in the Lake District, Cross Fell in the North Pennines or on the summit of The Cheviot itself.

In the summer months it is almost certain that one would not find any lingering snow-patches on the north-east side of The Cheviot or the north side of Helvellyn- but in the Cairngorms of North East Scotland, particularly on those mountains above 1,200 metres, there can be found patches of snow lasting until August. There is a gully on the north side of a mountain called Braeriach (summit 1,296 above sea- level), the gully is called Garbh Coire Mor and commonly has the most persistent snow found anywhere in the British Isles (snow has only completely disappeared from Garbh Coire Mor six times in the last century). Programmers for BBC Look North, covering North East England and northern Cumbria could do a piece on Garbh Coire Mor still filled with snow in August to point out that Newcastle-upon-Tyne is closer to This Icy Spectacle in high summer than the Houses of Parliament- combining a political fact with a stark geographical fact. This is one of those occasions when providing news from more than an hour’s drive to the north of the BBC Region would be justified (perhaps once every few weeks): It is about injecting into viewers a sense of real amazement at some hitherto little-known facts that truly “Big-up” their sense of “Northernness”!

BBC North West could provide pictures from some deep- frost-hollows in and just to the north of their transmission area in summer and early autumn. The village of Shap, in Cumbria lies in just such a frost- hollow as does nearby Kirkby Stephen in the upper Eden Valley. A clear summer night following a spell of cool westerly winds (not unusual in July or August) will see the air- temperature fall to around 6˚C, with localised mist and even a slight ground-frost whitening the grass at dawn. This, too, is about bringing a “Wow!” factor to the Regional News bulletins for viewers in North West England.

During the winter (even during a mild winter like 2019-2020), snow will blanket the Lake District Fells, the high fells of the North Pennines and the Cheviots on a regular basis. Views and images of the icy scenes provide viewers with a vivid and dramatic reminder of why their Region is different from those further south- all with their own periods of unique icy beauty not found in places to the south of the Region!

In June, near the summer solstice, half-light and sunset-like conditions can be found at midnight in Cumbria and Northumberland during dry clear weather- such light conditions are not observed at midnight in the southern half of the United Kingdom- and if Paul Mooney, the BBC Look North weather-presenter produced a “View North across Kielder Reservoir at Midnight” showing the red twilight to the north reflected in the water, that would be another unique “Wow!” for the viewers. Light summer nights are a uniquely Northern feature of nature defined largely by latitude- they should have a place in the Northern Regional Television bulletins as a means of enhancing the uniqueness of northern Regional News programming.