A “Democratic Deficit” for Viewers in Northern North-East England

10th August 2022

Dear Readers

A consideration that viewers of Regional TV who live “North of The Tyne” in North East England is that there is a Democratic Deficit in terms of representation by, and choice of, Regional TV for viewers in Northumberland. This is borne out by the news-coverage in both BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV1 News Tyne Tees. In both these Regional TV News- programmes news-reports on happenings in Northumberland are sparse, save for the recent reports of Bird Flu on the Northumberland Coast and the recent arrival of Sandwich Terns on Coquet Island: Even the ITV1 Politics programme Around The House (which is supposed to cater for the ITV1 Border Region too) is very focussed on Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside and, if not, Cumbria or SW Scotland. This is not news or programming that is representative of the concerns of viewers who live in rural Northumberland.

However, if one does not wish to watch either BBC1 Look North or ITV1 News Tyne Tees because it is not local to Northumberland there is also a “Democratic Deficit” in terms of what one could watch instead. If you live in far western Northumberland, around Haltwhistle or Haydon Bridge, or in the far north of the county, around Berwick-upon-Tweed or Cornhill-on-Tweed, you should certainly be able to pick up the signal for ITV1 Border and watch Lookaround if you point your aerial west. For viewers in the extreme west of Northumberland Lookaround would provide plenty of news about Cumbria and south-west Scotland (plus the odd report about western Northumberland) so the news could be considered a bit more geographically-appropriate than the 80% coverage of Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside from ITV1 News Tyne Tees. However, for far northern Northumberland, the 80% coverage of Cumbria and south-west Scotland (just 20% of coverage is about the nearby Scottish Borders) from ITV Border Lookaround, would be even less geographically-releavant for North Northumberland than the serving from ITV1 News Tyne Tees. You would be better off getting That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland (Freeview Channel 8) or STV News at Six (East Scotland), which would give more coverage of Lothian and the Scottish, within an hour’s drive of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Unfortunately That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland is impossible to access from Northumberland unless one lives right on the Scottish Border, and one needs an STV account and Internet to get any version of STV News at Six anywhere immediately south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. In any case, these programmes focus mostly on Edinburgh (STV News at Six covers Glasgow too) with less news about the Scottish Borders. They do not cover Northumberland at all. The You Tube based Northumberland TV is not a proper Regional TV News-service although one can find out what is happening in local council meetings from the site: Details here https://www.youtube.com/user/NorthumberlandTV/featured.

All of this means that if you live in the large geographical area that extends north-west of a line from Ashington to Allendale up to the Scottish Border there is no proper Regional TV News-service on earth that properly serves your area and represents the concerns of northern Northumbrians! This really is not good enough for viewers for live in the sixth richest country in the World where just 0.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on keeping local communities informed and up-to-date about important happenings in their area! If we increased the spending on Regional TV to just 0.2% of GDP it would enable the BBC to provide another 100 Regional TV News- services across the UK, including (almost certainly) provision of a dedicated Regional TV News-service for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

It is certainly time for viewers in Northumberland to put pressure on the Regional TV News-services that serve their county for them to make improvements: Email Amy Lea and Ian Payne at amyandian@itv.com regarding ITV1 News Tyne Tees‘ coverage of Northumberland. Since Amy Lea and Ian Payne also provide the Regional News for ITV1 Border Lookaround, they are perhaps in the best position to ensure North Northumbrians get more Scottish Border’s coverage and for viewers in the Scottish Borders to get more coverage of Northumberland so as to improve all-round Regional News-coverage close to the Scottish Border in Northumberland.

The BBC Regional News in Northumberland is arguably worse than ITV1 News Tyne Tees because BBC1 Look North serving Northumberland also caters for much of Cumbria, so the rural coverage is spread over a greater area. However, BBC1 Look North will be better for viewers in Hexham and locations west of there in west Northumberland, because northern Cumbria is within an hour’s drive and what happens in Carlisle and northern Cumbria may be better for those areas (this ensures these areas of west Northumberland get some all-round coverage, even if most of it is not immediately local), but that is certainly not true for Northern Northumberland. To write to BBC Look North (NE/Cumbria) to complain about coverage write to: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk. Tell both the mainstream Regional TV News-services serving Northumberland that local news-coverage is not good enough, that just 10% coverage within fifty miles is not a good Regional TV News-service. If you live close to the Scottish Border explain that the cut-off of news-coverage just north of the Scottish Border means that you miss about on coverage of major happenings (like road accidents) that will be significant for your community. Explain that is not acceptable to just have reports of crime in Sunderland or Newcastle United’s performance but nothing on fatal road accidents just over the Border, the latter of which is more likely to affect your community.

In the meantime, viewers should shop around as best they can. If you live in Berwick-upon-Tweed, for instance, then watching STV News at Six (Central/East Scottish version) then catching up on You Tube-based Northumberland TV may provide you with a better feel for what is happening all-round locally than sticking with ITV1 News Tyne Tees. If you do this, be sure to explain that this is what you will do in your e-mail to Amy Lea and Ian Payne at ITV1 News Tyne Tees and your e-mail to programmers at BBC1 Look North (NE/Cumbria). A bit of market pressure will increase the impact of your correspondence. Get your local friends to do the same.

Regional News for North East England must be funded better. Northumberland and North Yorkshire continue to suffer little Local News- coverage.

8th May 2022

Dear Readers

Regional Television, as serves viewers at the rural northern and southern peripheries of North East England, is scarcely local or geographic-appropriate for viewers in those areas. In northern Northumberland, in particular, where areas local to communities are only going be in Northumberland, the eastern Scottish Borders, and East Lothian nearer Edinburgh the Regional News- coverage on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or on ITV1 News Tyne Tees as regards the local area is really poor. Over the last week BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) scarcely got north of the River Tyne at all and programmers actually covered South Cumbria better than Northumberland this week!! Typically, less than 10% of total news-coverage concerns rural Northumberland and- for viewers who live close to the Scottish Border- they would never get to hear about happenings over the Scottish Border into south-east Scotland: That’s because neither the two mainstream Regional TV News- services that serve North East England overlap across the Scottish Border for serious news- ever!

KIELDER RESERVOIR IN AUGUST 2021. IN THIS FAR FLUNG CORNER OF RURAL NORTHUMBERLAND VIEWERS OF REGIONAL TELEVISION WANT LOCAL NEWS ABOUT NORTHUMBERLAND WITH SOME OVERLAP COVERAGE INTO THE SCOTTISH BORDERS. VIEWERS HERE DO NOT GET A GEOGRAPHIC-APPROPRIATE REGIONAL TV NEWS- SERVICE AT PRESENT, AS BOTH BBC1 LOOK NORTH (NE/ CUMBRIA) AND ITV1 NEWS TYNE TEES HAVE BARELY 10% COVERAGE GETTING NORTH OF THE TYNE. POSSIBLE BBC CUTS TO REGIONAL NEWS AS TV LICENSE FUNDING IS REMOVED BY 2027 MEAN THAT NORTHUMBERLAND COULD FACE EVEN POORER LOCAL NEWS-COVERAGE. THAT IS, UNLESS LOCAL COMMUNITIES CLUB TOGETHER TO GET THE GOVERNMENT TO FORCE THE BBC TO EXPLORE OTHER FUNDING STREAMS AND TO TIGHTEN THE BBC ROYAL CHARTER REQUIREMENT TO MAINTAIN BETTER REGIONAL TV NEWS- SERVICES.

To the south of North East England is the very large, rural county of North Yorkshire, the largest county in England: Both BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV1 News Tyne Tees are broadcast to the northern two-thirds of North Yorkshire, whilst the south of the county gets Regional News programming from the Yorkshire version of BBC1 Look North and from ITV1 News Calendar (Northern version). None of these Regional TV News- services provide adequate local coverage nor are they geographic- appropriate across huge areas. Usually, North Yorkshire gets a bit more coverage than rural Northumberland, which is to be expected given the fact that more people live there and the county is some 70% larger than Northumberland. However, viewers in North Yorkshire typically only receive one or two news- reports about their county from BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) each night, even Cumbria is slightly better-covered. ITV1 News Tyne Tees and ITV1 News Calendar (Northern version) provide slightly better coverage of North Yorkshire, though rarely more than 20% of total coverage. None of this is satisfactory for viewers in (say) Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales or Scarborough on the coast where, if they are lucky, more than 20% of the news-coverage comes within an hours’ drive of where they live!

Yet Regional TV News- services provide an important Public service- informing folk of happenings in their region, if not within a distance that means what is happening is local. If local roads get blocked with snow in the winter, or if there is congestion on the A1 or the A69, a good Regional and Local TV News- service will inform folk what is happening in and near their communities so that they can make informed choices. The BBC1 and ITV1 Regions serving North East England are clearly too large because there are folk in the rural northern and southern peripheries of the transmission areas covered that do not get a satisfactory geographic- appropriate local news- service.

Unfortunately, as regards the provision of Regional Television, one of the policies of the current Conservative Government is to phase out the TV License by 2027: Whilst TV License- payers might be happy about not paying the £159- a- year Tax on Televisions, this is what pays for the BBC to provide high-quality national and local news and documentaries. Without TV License income the BBC will need to find alternative income from things like TV subscriptions, product placement on programmes and possibly even advertising: Even so, it will really struggle to make up the £3.75 billion a year loss from TV License funding. It is likely that the BBC will have to make serious economies and it is likely that the BBC will have the £500 million cost of providing Regional TV News- services in its sights.

If the BBC do decide to cut spending on Regional TV News- programming it is certain that North East England in general and rural counties like Northumberland and North Yorkshire in particular will see a reduction in the amount of news-coverage. It isn’t inconceivable that the BBC will shorten the week-night half-hourly bulletins for BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) to just 15 minutes. Straight away, that is a reduction in local news coverage because there will only be time for five or six news-features on BBC1 Look North, not ten (as at present). And most of the news-features will be more likely than not to focus on Tyneside, Wearside, and Teesside where most people live. Places like Otterburn, Wooler and Seahouses in rural northern Northumberland would get news about their areas about as often as a Blue Moon!

Another distinct possibility, if the BBC decide they must make deep cuts, is that the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria transmission Region is amalgamated with the BBC1 Yorkshire and BBC1 East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire transmission Regions. The Regional TV studios in Leeds will then be the only one kept running serve the huge new BBC1 North transmission Region- with just the one BBC1 Look North! One hopes that ITV1 News Tyne Tees is still going then, because if not all of North East England would suffer a major loss of any geographically-relevant and local news-coverage that is readily available! Rural Northumberland would get almost no local coverage at all were the BBC to amalgamate all three BBC1 Regions between the Scottish Border and The Wash that are east of the Pennines: North Northumbrian viewers could then be encouraged by this Website to petition the BBC so that they could watch BBC1 Reporting Scotland– instead of news mainly about Leeds, Sheffield and Doncaster- because the coverage would have a better chance of being within an hours’ drive of somewhere like Berwick-upon-Tweed or Bamburgh if that happened!

In view of the importance of good Regional TV News-services it is vital that Regional TV continues to be well-funded. However, it has to be said that Government funding of BBC1 News- services, Regional or National, is an absolute no-no: News- reporters and journalists need to be able to report happenings for the benefit of viewers totally without fear or favour. State-funding of BBC News-services is a very bad idea, just as taxpayer funding of political parties is a very bad idea, because in a free and fair democracy reporters and news- readers should not be frightened off reporting anything critical of the Government (or the governing Parties) for fear of the Government cutting off BBC funding (or passing legislation to that effect). Any move to (or suggestion of) Tax-payer funding for the BBC will be resisted (and argued against) by this Website for those very reasons!

However, it is clear that the BBC is not going to be able to continue to provide the News- programming and Regional News- services it does without the TV License income. That said, a TV License, with revenues mandated from taxpayers was never a great idea because State funding of TV News broadcasting- under whatever guise- is useful for Governments to pressurise the BBC to provide coverage favourable to the Government and governing political parties. So how is it possible to ensure BBC1 Regional TV News is supported in future?

The first way of doing this is for the BBC Royal Charter to be amended by the Government so that it compels the BBC to spends a specified minimum proportion of its revenues, say 50%, on the provision of high-quality Local and National News and high-quality Documentaries within a specified time-frame (say two years). Then the BBC must be required to shed some of those types of programmes that can be provided by the market- like Soap Operas, Films, Daytime Chat Shows, Music, Sports, and Comedy- over (say) five years. In 2022 with Netflix and Amazon, along with Sky TV and ITV.Plc providing all of these without any State support the BBC should not be trying to provide all these too. This will help save Regional Television in North East England.

Secondly, both local and national Government, with the involvement of local communities should make it much easier for the BBC to raise funds in a number of different ways. Communities and local funding consortiums should be able to get together to help secure private funding and some of this will involve legal changes so that the BBC can raise money from a variety of income streams. This would help secure funding for new BBC1 Regions. Amongst those I suggest are:

  1. Local lotteries, if designed correctly and promoted- could raise serious sums of money.
  2. Local businesses and banks could be encouraged to sponsor local and Regional BBC news- services.
  3. The BBC could be made a Not-For-Profit organisation and legislation could be passed requiring Directors not to cream off profits, but to re-invest the money into improving BBC services for the benefit of the whole of the UK.
  4. The BBC should be encouraged to rent out studios and rooms when not in use,- for Conferences, filming groups, art groups, etc. Legislation should be passed to make this easier.
  5. The BBC should be encouraged to have shops and businesses on their premises that pay rent.
  6. When and where the BBC struggles to raise funds to support good Regional TV local communities should be able to come together to set up their own Community Local TV News- service that is Not For Profit.
  7. The BBC should be encouraged to sell any surplus stock and put any proceeds and savings into Governments bonds or a high-interest savings account to generate further revenues for its operations.
  8. Expert fundraisers and Finance Industry chiefs should be drafted in to the BBC to help it raise serious sums of money on the market for Regional and Local News. This should be done at the behest of local councils and communities.
  9. BBC Regional TV News-services could be made eligible for National Lottery support if they cannot raise the funds needed elsewhere.
  10. Better marketing of nature programmes (like David Attenborough’s) and documentaries. These could be sold by DVD on Amazon or sold in book-shops or newsagents. Local documentaries could be turned into DVDs and sold across the Region likely to be interested in documentaries of a particular area. This would help recoup costs of local TV documentaries.

These measures together could help develop some serious revenue streams for the BBC that would enable it to raise ££ millions just for Regional TV and for local high-quality documentaries. In addition, the BBC will need to be able to charge subscriptions for people to watch BBC programmes- and it needs to be able to do that in other countries (as much as depends on the British Government) so it can raise extra revenues this way. Advertising (for those who want BBC services free) and product- placement in programmes will also need to be allowed for maximum fund-raising. Finally, in the BBC Charter and in Parliament there needs to be legislative underpinning to protect the BBC from the whims of a future Government that does not like its reporting. A BBC Protection Committee could be established in Parliament to scrutinise the actions of any Government in relation to the BBC: That will help safeguard impartial news- reporting and our free Democracy in this country going forwards.

Now, about £20 million a year easily covers the cost of running a BBC Region like BBC1 NE/ Cumbria- covering the cost of studios, paying for heating, lighting, Insurance and the maintenance of transmission masts and signals. The above measures, taken altogether with local and Regional communities coming together to ensure funding for additional Regional TV News- services (and with help from the National Lottery if need be) could easily raise an additional £40 million annually for a Not For Profit BBC to provide funds for two brand new BBC Regions: A new BBC1 Northumberland Border News service for rural Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and towards Edinburgh and a BBC1 Tees North Yorkshire Regional News- service to cover southern rural County Durham, Teesside and all of North Yorkshire. West of the Pennines additional funds could be raised for a new BBC1 North West Regional News service just covering South Cumbria, Lancashire and the Isle of Man- with northern Cumbrians given a choice of getting this Regional News-service.

If local communities and local governments have the will they can bring about these changes. Even without Public or community funds “Local TV” services as such do exist, though not at the stage that they produce half an hour of news each night. The town of Hexham, in the Tyne Valley is a prime example of a town and the surrounding district that has a very local news-service- it is YouTube- based Hexham TV (here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk0s7GfPKbVGRHHjPTH_BcQ/featured). If there is the local and regional will to raise funds, it is certainly possible to fund for localised and more geographic- appropriate Regional Television News- services. This would be of great benefit to viewers in far-flung parts of the North East of England like up near Berwick-upon-Tweed, close to the Scottish Border north-west of Otterburn or in remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales.

However, time is passing, and the BBC is under increasing financial pressure. If viewers and their communities don’t mobilise and pressurise the BBC into improving, not just protecting existent not-very-good Regional TV News- services, then there is every chance that in ten years’ time that large areas of North East England have a choice of Regional TV News- services that are worse than those of today.

There is No ITV1 or BBC1 Regional News Service that really caters for viewers in far North East Northumberland

23rd February 2022

Dear Readers

If you live in Berwick upon Tweed, or in Wooler, Bamburgh or even as far south along the coast as Seahouses, you are still more than an hour’s drive north from from Newcastle upon Tyne (or over 50 miles away). That means that, to all intents and purposes, the regional news- output from BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria version) or from ITV1 News Tyne Tees is unlikely to be local except for typically one news-item a night. BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria), which is the default BBC1 Region for far north-east Northumberland just had one news- feature about Northumberland Museum, Ashington today, 23rd February 2022: Ashington is still over an hour’s drive and 52 miles south of Berwick upon Tweed.

VIEW NORTH-EAST TOWARDS THE CHEVIOT, THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN THE CHEVIOTS AT 815 METRES ABOVE SEA-LEVEL ON A BRIGHT LATE SPRING EVENING. EAST OF HERE LIE COMMUNITIES IN NORTH NORTHUMBERLAND THAT ARE NOT WELL- SERVED BY ANY OF THE BBC1 OT ITV1 REGIONAL TELEVISION NEWS-SERVICES. THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN IN LATE MAY 2006.

Thus, neither BBC1 Look North nor ITV1 News Tyne Tees will provide a geographically- appropriate news- service for folk who live along, or close to the North Northumberland Coast north of Seahouses. ITV1 News Tyne Tees is probably marginally better, if one had to choose between the two, since ITV1 News Tyne Tees does not also have to cater for potentially 300,000 viewers living in northern and West Cumbria- which BBC1 Look North (NE/Cumbria) does. However, any benefit over BBC1 Look North is largely academic since ITV1 News Tyne Tees still provides remarkably little in terms of North of Tyne news-coverage! It is also worth adding that neither BBC1 Look North nor ITV1 News Tyne Tees overlap across the Scottish Border into the Scottish Borders, so if one is a viewer living in the coastal village of Beal (south of Berwick-upon-Tweed) you would never get to know about even quite major happenings in communities just fifteen miles to the north, near Eyemouth!

Of course, news- broadcasters might point out, if it was something serious it would probably be on the National News. There are two arguments as to why that is not at all satisfactory: Firstly, some serious issues like flooding, roads closed and even fatal road traffic accidents do not always make it onto the National and International News- particularly if something more serious is happening elsewhere in the country. Thus, viewers in North Northumberland might be blissfully unaware of a major road traffic accident (possibly involving some-one they know) on the Scottish side of the Border. Secondly, most folk have a good grasp of geography (particularly of places within an hour’s drive of their communities). They will be affronted to hear about something happening less than twenty miles away covered briefly in the National News bulletins, not being so much as mentioned in the supposedly “local” Regional News bulletin: They would have reason to be very angry if they later discover some-one they know (or a family member) was involved in the incident not covered in the Regional News!

However, we must consider whether other adjacent ITV1 and/ or BBC1 Regional news services, or Scottish TV (STV) Regional News services would better serve viewers who live north of Seahouses along the North Northumberland Coast, that’s if viewers can access them. ITV1 News Border, with it’s flagship nightly bulletin Lookaround ought to fit the bill. After all this Regional TV News- service covers Berwick-upon-Tweed and northern and westernmost Northumberland in news-coverage, and it is the default ITV1 Region for all of the Scottish Borders.

However, ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround also covers Cumbria and all Dumfries and Galloway too, Cumbria accounts for 50 to 60% of coverage in the main bulletins and, of the rest of the news-coverage, Northumberland is mentioned perhaps once a week and the Scottish Borders enjoys rather less than half of the 40 to 45% coverage devoted to Southern Scotland. At one level a couple of news- features about the Scottish Borders each night, plus a news- feature about northern Northumberland every few days means that viewers in, say, Berwick-upon-Tweed enjoy 20% of coverage about happenings within an hour’s drive of their area on most nights. But on some nights, there may only be one news-item about the Scottish Borders and nothing about Northumberland; if that one Scottish Borders’ news-item happened to be about Peebles, that is 57 miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed and an hour and a half’s drive away. From Seahouses, Peebles is 75 miles away and two hours’ drive: Hardly local!

News about Cumbria, which gets the lion’s share of coverage on ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround is even less “local” than most of North East England to somewhere like Berwick-upon-Tweed or Bamburgh; from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Penrith it is a two hours and 19 minutes’ drive over a distance of 105 miles through the Scottish Borders, whilst a drive to Middlesbrough would take one hour and 53 minutes and it would involve a drive of 101 miles. The far south-west of Scotland, which is covered in ITV1 Border’s Lookaround is even further: From Berwick on Tweed it is a 187-mile drive to Stranraer (passing by Edinburgh and Glasgow) and involving a long drive down the A77 and Ayrshire coast. By comparison Filey, in south-east coastal North Yorkshire, the most southerly and off-direct-route coastal town likely to be covered in ITV1 News Tyne Tees is 150 miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Further west- southwest along the Scottish Border, places like Otterburn, Kielder or Bellingham in north-west Northumberland will find the contents of ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround much more geographic- appropriate. These areas are also just a bit closer to Newcastle-upon-Tyne too so more of ITV1 News Tyne Tees would have locally- relevant news-content (though not much more). Thus, ITV1 News Border’s coverage of Dumfriesshire and northern Cumbria, as well as the western Scottish Borders (which accounts for more than 50% of the news-output), in addition to the odd bit of news about Kielder Forest or Hadrian’s Wall is a real viable alternative for viewers if they can get ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround in those parts of north-west Northumberland. If viewers cannot get the programme on their TV’s they can still get it from the ITV1 News Border website where the evening’s programme is available to watch from two hours after being broadcast live. The website link for ITV1 News Border is here: https://www.itv.com/news/border.

However, for the North Northumberland Coast, neither ITV1 News Tyne Tees nor ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround are good all-round geographic-appropriate news-services in of themselves: Watching ITV1 News Tyne Tees on the television at 6.pm, then watching ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround later (when it has been loaded on to the ITV1 Border website), will provide the best chance of catching three or four news-items about places within an hour’s drive of your home. But to get these, you may have to trawl your way through some 15 or so other news- items about County Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire, Sunderland then Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway! Perhaps there are better options.

If you live in Berwick-upon-Tweed or Cornhill-on-Tweed you may, as many there do, have strong links (through work or family) with Edinburgh, East and West Lothian and the Forth valley (as well as the Scottish Borders). In that case you can either watch Scottish Television’s (STV) “News at Six” for Central/ Southern Scotland on your television- which, with a clear view north, you should be able to pick up a TV signal if your aerial is high enough and pointed north. If you live a bit further south along the North Northumberland Coast, i.e. nearer Bamburgh you might not be able to pick up STV Edinburgh/ Glasgow, but you can watch Scottish TV (STV) News at Six, Regional News for Central Southern Scotland version by signing up get an STV account and then going to the STV News Glasgow website here https://player.stv.tv/summary/stv-news-glasgow. This programme has typically 30 to 40% coverage of Edinburgh, East and West Lothian and around Stirling- locations reachable in an hour or less on the train or by car from Berwick-upon-Tweed. If you watch ITV1 News Tyne Tees, then the STV Central/ South Scotland Regional News at Six, after it has been loaded on to the STV website (about two hours later) it is most likely that you will net yourself rather more news-features about happenings within an hour’s travel time. It will favour one better than watching ITV1 News Tyne Tees then (later) ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround.

If viewers around Berwick-upon-Tweed and close to the Scottish Border in far northern Northumberland have Freeview and have a clear view north-west, they can get a Freeview signal off the Selkirk transmitter in the Scottish Borders: That will enable viewers to watch That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland (website link here: http://www.thats.tv/edinburgh-south-scotland/). This airs on Freeview Channel 8 at 6.pm and it has ten minutes of news about Edinburgh, East and West Lothian and the Scottish Borders. It is one of the best local news- services there is for getting coverage of happenings just over the Border into south-east Scotland.

However, neither STV’s News at Six or That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland provide any news- coverage about Northumberland: These Regional TV News- services concern Edinburgh/ Glasgow and central Southern Scotland or south-east Scotland alone respectively. So these will provide plenty of coverage of happenings within an hour’s drive of Berwick-upon-Tweed, but only on the Scottish side of the Border! Another option is available for bespoke news- coverage about Northumberland, though it really does not constitute being a Regional TV News-service: It is You Tube based Northumberland TV.

If folk in North Northumberland have a computer with Internet, they can also find You Tube based Northumberland TV (website details are here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRjaNG8hxEey9jHfGPaSuVg). This has lots of news- clips about current happenings in Northumberland, including local council meetings. Whilst, this is not a Regional TV News service, it will have a much higher proportion of news that is local to North Northumberland than ITV1 News Tyne Tees, BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or indeed ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround: So, if our North Northumberland viewers can get That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland on Freeview Channel 8 (from the Selkirk transmitter) for local news just north of the Scottish Border and towards Edinburgh, then look over Northumberland TV for local news just about Northumberland they will help themselves to the highest proportion of local news-coverage there is- netting at least four or five news-features a night coming with in an hour’s travel time of Berwick-upon-Tweed or Bamburgh.

However, this comes back to a central issue, namely that if you live in North Northumberland- that part within 20 miles of Berwick-upon-Tweed- you do not have a good Local and Regional TV News- service that you can get on your television-at all!! The only places that are local at all fall in an area that extends from Morpeth in the south right up to North Berwick and Edinburgh (these are places reachable by car or by train within an hour or less). Travelling west-southwest, nothing further than Hawick is within an hour’s drive or fifty miles- beyond this the news would not even be “Regionally Local” to Berwick-upon-Tweed folk. Happenings beyond those geographical boundaries will have no more salience with the good folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed than what is happening at the other end of the country.

There is not actually a single Regional TV News service, except That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland that will regularly provide more than two news-items that could be considered local to far north-east Northumberland with any regularity: That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland (Freeview Channel 8 from the Selkirk transmitter) will provide three or four such news- items, but (plainly) will only cover happenings on the Scottish side of the Border; viewers living south of Berwick-upon-Tweed along the coast will not be able to get that Regional TV News-service because the signal from Selkirk is blocked by the Cheviot fells and That’s TV Local will not upload their Regional News programmes to the respective local websites.

Meanwhile, ITV1 News Tyne Tees will be the best there is- as far as Regional TV News goes- for news on the Northumberland side of the Scottish Border! If you are prepared to boycott ITV1 News Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and make do with Northumberland TV off You Tube, in conjunction with That’s TV Edinburgh & South Scotland (or, if you cannot get that, STV News at Six for Central/ South Scotland)- in order to make a point, then I would strongly encourage you to do so: The news- programmers for the default Tyneside-based mainstream Regional TV News-services that serve North Northumberland need to be persuaded that the Regional and Local TV News for folk living North of Alnwick leaves a lot to be desired and is geographically- inappropriate. If the Tyneside-based news-programmers can also be persuaded that folk in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Wooler or Cornhill-on-Tweed can shop around and source more localised, relevant local TV news (or even just You Tube based news- clips), then the Regional News programmers for BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and for ITV1 News Tyne Tees might just start taking better care of their most northerly viewers!

It is of course completely unacceptable that folk in small towns like Seahouses, Wooler and Cornhill-on-Tweed have to scrabble about on You Tube to get decent local news-coverage of their county, Northumberland (which takes up some 58% of the entire surface area of North East England)! However, if viewers just resign themselves to getting poor local news- coverage, news- coverage which also ignores the strong historical cross -Border links between Northumberland, and the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh, nothing will get done about it.

So, just what are viewers unhappy with the current choice of Regional news- services on offer- in places like Seahouses, Bamburgh, Beal and Wooler- actually to do about it? Complaining is an obvious first step, though if ITV1 News Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) programmers note that North Northumbrians have no viable, real alternatives for Regional News the reply is quite likely to be along the lines of “Sorry, you will have to be happy with what you have got! Providing more localised news-coverage is expensive, so we are not doing it!”. And with the BBC now facing financial pressures and ITV.Plc faced with a tough commercial environment, both these organisations will take that stance over Regional News provision.

A better hope of leverage is through noting that both Ian Payne and Amy Lea are the main Regional News presenters both for ITV1 News Tyne Tees and for ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. ITV1 Tyne Tees and Border is, in fact, one Regional TV organisation for ITV.Plc which oversees the production of both ITV1 News Tyne Tees and ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround: This is a legacy of the merger of ITV1 Tyne Tees and ITV1 Border from 2009 to 2013. Thus, ITV1 Tyne Tees and Border as a single large Regional News organisation (an effective regional subsidiary of ITV.Plc) with responsibilities to viewers in Northumberland and to viewers in the Scottish Borders. Programmers working for ITV1 Tyne Tees and Border can therefore be persuaded to provide some overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders for far North Northumbrian viewers. Alternatively programmers could consider transferring the Berwick-upon-Tweed area (plus northernmost Northumberland) back to the ITV1 News Border Region (which this area was in prior to December 2006), then ensuring that ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround has a couple more news-items about the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

A third option, having transferred North Northumberland back to the ITV1 News Border Region, is for ITV1 Border to then resurrect the Selkirk opt-out in Regional News so that more localised news-coverage can be provided for viewers in the Scottish Borders and the North of Northumberland. However, even just transferring North Northumberland back to the ITV1 News Border transmission region- and just having a couple of news-items more about places at the north-eastern end of the Scottish Border and in North Northumberland won’t break the bank and it is unlikely to alienate Cumbrian or SW Scotland viewers (provided a minute is shaved off the Sports coverage, not other news-items): Such a change will also be warmly appreciated by viewers around Berwick-upon-Tweed, and also those viewers at the north-eastern end of the Scottish Borders who must currently feel that ITV1 Border’s Lookaround is now mainly about Cumbria with most of the rest of the coverage being mainly about south-west Scotland!

If you wish to write to Amy Lea and Ian Payne to make these suggestions their e-mail address is: amyandian@itv.com. However, you need to get your friends and family to write to Amy Lea and Ian Payne too, so that these Regional News- presenters get the strength of feeling of North Northumberland viewers on getting more local and all- round geographic-appropriate Regional News coverage.

Since there remains every likelihood that that approach may fall flat- perhaps because viewers in Sunderland or Teesside object to getting any Scottish Borders’ news and the presenters point this out, stronger campaign measures might be necessary. This will involve writing to the local MP, complaining to OFCOM and to the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) about the lack of news- coverage that gets North of Tyne. The BBC is required, as part of the BBC Charter to provide “news relevant to communities everywhere in the UK”, and it is clearly not doing that for Far North Northumberland: So, do write to DCMS and to your local MP to point this out, and they will remind the BBC of its Charter obligations. Viewers should point out that they are having to scrabble around on You Tube to get more local news, that they are pointing the aerials north to get Southern Scottish Regional TV News- services just to find out what is happening over the Scottish Border when writing to the local MP, to OFCOM or DCMS. Get your friends and family to write too, and this will lead to BBC1 and ITV1 in the North East feeling pressure from above to improve the lot for viewers who live north of Alnwick.

Your local MP is the Right Hon. Lady Anne Marie Trevelyan if you live in North Northumberland. In far north-west Northumberland (around Otterburn) your local MP is the Right Hon. Sir Guy Opperman. If you wish to write a letter complaining about the lack of local coverage and pointing out that the BBC Regional News for the area is not observing the stipulations of the BBC Charter your MP’s postal address is always: House of Commons, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 0AA. To complain to OFCOM about ITV1 News Tyne Tees‘ lack of North Northumberland coverage send a letter to: OFCOM Complaints, PO Box 1285, WARRINGTON. WA1 9GL. To write to the Department of Dgital Culture Media and Sport, in order to complain about the lack of appropriate local news-coverage for your community from both ITV1 and BBC1 write to the following address:

The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport,

100 Parliament Street, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 2BQ.

If this does not work, then there is the lesson of how the force of mass People Power can make Regional TV News-providers change their tune: It is the Power of Protest and it is one that viewers in North Cumbria used over thirty years ago when the BBC decided in their wisdom that North Cumbrians should get their “local” news from Manchester! Five years of protesting, campaigns involving the local press, and people complaining in their thousands that folk around Carlisle wished to have news about Newcastle-upon-Tyne (because that is where they shopped or went to the airport, etc.) led to the BBC eventually relenting and transferring northern Cumbria back to BBC1 North East.

Thus, if folk from Berwick-upon-Tweed club together with banners stating “We Want Borders’ News and Northumberland News, Not Tyneside and Teesside News”- and they travel down to The Watermark in Gateshead to picket for a change from ITV1 Tyne Tees to ITV1 Border (Scotland version), and to get more North Northumberland news-coverage, the ITV1 News Tyne Tees programmers would be hard- pressed to ignore it! If this happened regularly over a long period of time, with the help of local organisations in North Northumberland, ITV.Plc would come under great pressure to grant far North Northumbrians their wishes. It might take five years, and the involvement of the entire local community, but a consistent united effort over time pays off!

Regional Television in Switzerland

30th December 2021

Dear Readers

Hello. I am currently staying with my brother in Switzerland during Christmas and the New Year where Regional and Local Television is treated somewhat more generously per capita of the population compared to Northern England (that is Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, North East England and all North West England plus the Isle of Man). The population of this large area is over 15.5 million inhabitants and the surface area exceeds 44,000 square kilometres. This entire area is served by just four BBC Regions and just five ITV Regions. All of North East England plus most of North Yorkshire is served by one each of these ITV and BBC Regions, despite being home to three million people, most of Cumbria also shares the large BBC North East Region, despite places like Workington and Whitehaven clearly being in the North West!

Lets now compare this situation with the land-locked country of Switzerland, where I am staying with my brother: Just 8.75 million folk live in Switzerland (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/switzerland-population/), and the geographical surface area of the entire country is just 41,285 square kilometres (https://www.eda.admin.ch/aboutswitzerland/en/home/umwelt/geografie/geografie—fakten-und-zahlen.html). However, the Swiss have access to no less than 14 different Regional Television News services, each area of the country has its own bespoke Local and Regional News service (details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_in_Switzerland). Moreover, Regional Television channels are entitled to at least 4% of their TV license fee each year- amounting to about £2.5 to £3 million each year for each Local News service. Thus, Regional Television is also well- funded and, also it is not at the mercy of television companies making economies by cutting “unprofitable Regional News”.

In terms of the number of local TV stations the TV Regions cover geographical areas that are about a third of the geographical area of those in northern England and catering for populations that are about 20% of the size of the populations of the TV Regions across Northern England and the Isle of Man (bearing in mind that the BBC and ITV Regions largely duplicate, ITV News Border being the one exception). In Switzerland, each TV Region caters for less than one million people and covers a geographical area of about 3,000 square kilometres. The other positive, is that there is overlap coverage of news into adjacent transmission areas so that folk living at the edge of the TV Region get to learn about major happenings 30 miles away but into the adjacent TV Region. In the North of Switzerland, where I am staying with my brother, viewers have access to national German-speaking news-channels that have a fair amount of news-coverage from across the border into Germany and- in some cases- German national news (i.e., here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SRF_1 and here https://www.zdf.de/). By way of contrast, how much of Northumberland has easy access to Scottish news should northern Northumbrians wish to know what is happening across the Scottish Border?!!

If North East England and North Yorkshire were to have the same degree of coverage per-capita and geographic area as is found in Switzerland, then North Yorkshire and Teesside along with southern County Durham would have its own bespoke TV Region, the news-programming of which would have some overlap south into West Yorkshire and Humberside, overlap west into Cumbria and overlap north to Tyneside and southern Northumberland. Tyneside, Wearside northern County Durham and Northumberland would also, certainly, have their own bespoke Local and Regional News-service- with coverage of Northumberland given greater prominence -and with overlap coverage north into the Scottish Borders and East Lothian in south-east Scotland, south to Teesside and northern North Yorkshire and west to Carlisle and North Cumbria. Cumbria itself would have its own Cumbria Region, or be in a northern North West England/ Borders Region with Dumfries and Galloway, and northern Lancashire.

For all viewers in, say, the current BBC North East/ Cumbria Region the Swiss level of funding and coverage would represent a massive improvement in the proportion of news-coverage that would be considered relevant and local. Viewers in places like Otterburn or Wooler would actually find much more of the news to be within an hours drive of their communities, as would viewers in places like Hawes or Leyburn!

All the best for 2022: Lets hope that this is the Year the Regional TV News providers sit up and take notice that the Viewers in their Northern Hinterlands feel neglected and wish to have regular news about their communities, not just Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland or Middlesbrough!

THE NORTHUMBERLAND SCOTTISH BORDERS REGION LACKS REAL NEWS COVERAGE ON REGIONAL TELEVISION- AND RECENTLY LACKED THE WHEREWITHALL TO WATCH IT TOO!

6th December 2021

Dear Readers

On the 26th November 2021, the evening after this picture was taken in rural south-west Northumberland, communities in areas covered by those shown in the above picture- that is the Tyne Valley and looking north across western rural Northumberland to the Scottish Border were without power as violent storms battered the North East of England and eastern Scotland. Viewers in these areas could not see the Regional News on BBC Look North or ITV1 News Tyne Tees, let alone see a Regional News- service providing good coverage of their area. Many folk living in these areas would remain without power until the beginning of December 2021.

VIEW NORTH FROM ALLENDALE COMMON ACROSS THE TYNE VALLEY TO THE DISTANT CHEVIOTS. 26TH NOVEMBER 2021

The response of local emergency services- and Northern Powergrid- in helping get power to those affected was commendable, but with almost 100,000 homes in the North East of England- mainly in rural Northumberland and rural County Durham- not getting power for three, four, up to six days the question has to be asked “Why were the Army not drafted in?”. Why was there not a national response to so many folk in rural areas losing power- and being without during the coldest winter weather so far this year (it went down to -8˚C in the North Pennines overnight 27th/28th November with six inches of lying snow). The British Army did arrive after thousands of folk had been shivering for over four days, they brought in generators and provided hot food for local folk (details here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-59473400).

However, affected households were also cut off from all contact with the outside world. People would not have known where road congestion was, whether roads were passable (this being after the first real snowfalls of winter fell) or, indeed, what was happening in their electric- cut communities. The premise of this website is that folk in rural Northumberland require a reliable news-service that keeps them up to date in what is happening where they live and in other places they are liable to frequent: A Regional Television News-service is, arguably, better than none at all. A tip for readers, for if they are ever in such a situation again whereby they have no electricity, is to buy a radio operatable with batteries, then find your local radio stations on it. BBC Radio Newcastle covers Tyneside and Northumberland, (it’s mostly Tyneside news) but (hopefully) if large parts of rural Northumberland are without power you will be told about it. BBC Radio Newcastle can be found on 95.4 FM, 96 FM, 103.7 FM, 104.4FM (whichever one is best will depend on where you live in Northumberland) and also you can get it on 1458 AM. If you wish to find out what is happening across the Border into the Scottish Borders then Radio Borders can be found on 102.3 FM near Berwick upon Tweed and 96.8 FM if you live in the North Tyne- near Bellingham or Otterburn (though the Cheviots might interfere with the signal as it is transmitted from Selkirk).

However, the best defence against getting cut-off from the outside world (and much else besides!) in the event of a power- blackout is to invest in a generator, if you have the means to buy one. If you do not have the technical expertise to install a generator a local electrician will be able to assist: The £4,000 cost of a generator that will enable you to have light, keep warm and watch the local news plus £500 for an electrician to install it will be worth it for your peace of mind. It will probably  increase the value of your home by more than this outlay. You do not know when the next big black-out will come!

However, even for those not hit by black-outs, the period from 26th November through to the start of December has not exactly been a great one for great Regional TV for rural Northumberland, either from BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees.

Of news that folk in northern and north-west Northumberland might have wanted to know about from the 26th of November through to today, but were not informed about either by BBC1 Look North or ITV1 News Tyne Tees there has been a great deal- mainly weather-related that could have had major impacts on their lives. These happenings include:

  • School-children in Berwick upon Tweed have missed a considerable amount of education following serious  storm-damage to two schools in the town.
  • Snow and high winds closed the A68 at Carter Bar and travel north of Newcastle on the A1 (or by train) from 26th through 27th November was impossible (this only got a very brief mention). This will have had an enormous impact on people living in mid or northern Northumberland who may have had to travel from a job in Tyneside, yet there seems to have been little mention of this. And what of folk in Northumberland without a car who might have needed to travel to relatives with electricity if they had lost theirs? If no buses and trains were running in northern Northumberland, folk would have remained restricted to their cold dark homes.
  • More than 200 seal pups were killed by Storm Arwen on the North Sea coast at St Abbs Head- just ten miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Unfortunately, because it was over the Scottish Border neither BBC1 Look North nor ITV1 News Tyne Tees touched it.
  • No mention that the main railway line between Carlisle and Newcastle was closed on 26th through 27th November due to Storm Arwen. This is well within the north of BBC1 NE/ Cumbria and ITV1 Tyne Tees transmission areas, so no excuse at all there! This will have directly affected folk in towns like Hexham and Haltwhistle!
  • The A7 in the Scottish Borders- between Hawick and Selkirk- was closed due to flooding on 26th November. No mention for the folk in north-west Northumberland who might have had reason to travel that way, since neither of the two North East- based Regional TV News outlets ever overlap into the Scottish Borders for any reason!

All these happenings were quite significant for folk living in Northumberland, shut schools, roads, and railway lines with the potential to affect tens of thousands of North Northumbrian residents. If the Regional TV News services with authority for providing news as relevant to Northumberland communities cannot or won’t cover such significant happenings they are failing in their duties.  As for rural communities that lose power in storms- and are  four or more days, they lose all news coverage and much else besides. If climate change means more powerful winter storms in future, remote northern communities and households would be advised to invest in generators, or (if that is unaffordable) battery-powered radios (with a supply of batteries), so that folk can remain informed. However, local authorities must be quicker to get the Army in to supply generators (and the Government must support such endeavours), so that rural households are not left freezing, without power and cut off from all news of the outside world for more than a couple of days!

North East England North of Hadrians Wall. The lack of any news- coverage North of the Border is unacceptable- for obvious reasons.

SCOTTISH BORDER BETWEEN NORTHUMBERLAND AND THE SCOTTISH BORDER NW OF KIELDER RESERVOIR, AUGUST 2021

2nd October 2021

Dear Readers

When Emperor Hadrian had built the famous wall that takes his name in AD122, it was to mark the most north-west extent of his Roman kingdom: The part that was south of Hadrian’s Wall was Britannia, from which we have the name Britain, but the part north of Hadrian’s Wall was called Caledonia, which not only extended across what is today Scotland and also the vast majority of Northumberland and northern Tyneside. Twenty years later, in AD142 the Antonine Wall was built-from the mouth of the Clyde eastwards to the mouth of the Forth- across what is today the Scottish lowlands. After the death of Antoninus Pius in AD165, the Romans clearly decided there was little point in annexing what is today Northumberland and southern Scotland- and retreated to make their boundary as defined by Hadrian’s Wall (sources Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian%27s_Wall, and The Romans In Scotland website: https://www.antoninewall.org/about-the-wall/the-romans-in-scotland).

For much of the time until the eleventh century AD, what is now Northumberland was part of the same administrative region as what is now the Scottish Borders, and East/ West Lothian. For 400 years from the early seventh century all of what is now Northumberland- and indeed Tyneside and County Durham- were part of the large region of Northumbria that stretched from the Humber right up to Edinburgh. In 1018, the northern part of Northumbria- from the River Tweed to Edinburgh was ceded to Scotland (source Northumberland- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northumberland#History). North Northumberland has even more recent direct historical ties to Scotland, as Berwick-upon-Tweed was part of Scotland as recently as 1482, when King Richard the Third re-took the town for England. Strong links between Northumberland and Scotland remain to this day- Berwick-upon-Tweed’s football team Berwick Rangers plays in the Scottish Football League and the old county of Berwickshire- of which Berwick-upon-Tweed was the county town- mainly extends across what is today the eastern end of the Scottish Borders Region of Scotland.

Beyond that the strong links between Northumberland and Scotland (particularly the Scottish Borders) extend to generations of families and communities that have lived and worked astride the Scottish Border, something that might be weakened by Scotland becoming independent and making the England-Scotland Border into a proper National Border. However, even if Scotland becomes independent, that will not erase centuries of shared history and cultural/ historic ties between southern Scotland and Northumberland. The very fact that, for the last 315 years, Scotland and Northumberland were part of the same country called the United Kingdom meant that there has been no National Border stopping Northumbrians wanting to travel to Edinburgh or the Scottish Borders for the day, and nothing stopping folk in the Scottish Borders or Edinburgh from shopping in Berwick-upon-Tweed or visiting the Northumberland countryside.

This has a bearing upon Regional and Local News watched by viewers in Northumberland: If the county has strong ties with Scotland and if there are strong historical and cultural links across the Scottish Border- where North Northumbrians will have close friends, relatives, places they like to visit- it is right that the Local/ Regional news watched by Northumbrian viewers provides some overlap coverage into southern Scotland. It is also right that a higher proportion of the news coverage on ITV1 News Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria version) should provide much more coverage of happenings North of the Tyne than they do. If you live in Berwick-upon-Tweed and have been brought up there (or nearby in another part of North Northumberland or in the Scottish Borders), there is a very high chance that you will have close family or friends who live over the Border or that some of your favourite places to visit on a day-trip will be in the Scottish Borders or Lothian. That being so, you would want to hear more about Berwick-upon-Tweed and Northumberland, but you would also want to hear about Eyemouth, Kelso, Jedburgh, Galashiels and Dunbar and the surrounding areas (all well within an hour’s drive of Berwick-upon-Tweed). You really would not be interested in stuff happening in Middlesbrough, York or Darlington- over 100 miles from where you live, but news south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne accounts for eighty percent of Regional News-coverage on both North East England’s mainstream Regional TV News- services.

As to how to try and rectify this, you should complain firstly to the Regional TV News- producers and explain that North Northumbrian viewers like yourself want more geographic- appropriate news-coverage and that you want some overlap coverage across the Border into southern Scotland because some of those places are local to you and because of the strong historic links with the Scottish Borders. You can email ITV1 News Tyne Tees at amyandian@itv.com (the main ITV1 News Tyne Tees presenters are Amy Lea and Ian Payne) and you can email BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) at look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk.

By the way, the Presenters of ITV1 News Tyne Tees are likely to be more receptive to requests for coverage of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, because Ian Payne and Amy Lea are also the main presenters for ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround– which covers Cumbria and southern Scotland. Since they present the main Regional News programs for ITV1 News Tyne Tees and ITV1 News Border’s Lookaround, both from the same TV news-room at The Watermark in Gateshead it would not really require extra resources for them to keep North Northumbrian viewers happy by slipping in a news-feature about grouse-shooting in Teviotdale or a festival in Kelso. If you live near Berwick-upon-Tweed you could also give Ian Payne and Amy Lea a request that your area be transferred back to ITV1 News Border (Scotland) because it gives a bit more local coverage as ITV1 News Border do cover news about Berwick-upon-Tweed- as well as the Scottish Borders- in output.

A Sunny Warm August Day: Views from Near Kielder and the Scottish Border

28th August 2021

I have been for a lovely country drive into rural Northumberland and across into the Scottish Borders on a fantastic Bank Holiday week-end. Who can complain! Do sample some nice views of this oft- neglected part of the World by North East Regional Television- this Website will showcase some of these places even if the BBC and ITV.Plc fail to! Enjoy!

VIEW EAST TOWARDS KIELDER RESERVOIR FROM THE ROAD AT LEAPLISH
LATE SUMMER FLOWERS IN A CLEARING SW OF THE ROAD JUST OVER THE SCOTTISH BORDER- NW OF KIELDER AT FAIRLOANS
SCOTTISH BORDER: COUNTY SIGN SAYING WELCOME TO SCOTTISH BORDERS NEAR DEADWATER FARM NW OF KIELDER
VIEW NE TOWARDS DEADWATER FELL ON THE SCOTTISH BORDER NW OF KIELDER

Regional TV in North East England by 2050. A Worst Case Scenario

21st August 2021

This is a Website that campaigns for better and more geographic- appropriate Regional Television for rural Northumberland. However, there is a real chance that what viewers in northern parts of North East England, indeed all of North East England and including North Yorkshire will end up with an even worse and less local choice from the BBC and from ITV in terms of Regional and Local News- coverage appropriate to where they live in future. However, if local viewers and communities are informed in advance they can plan ahead to mitigate against some of the worst possible decisions of Regional News broadcasters- and even to help themselves to get more geographic- appropriate Local and Regional News-coverage despite the BBC and ITV.Plc undertaking cost- cutting measures.

I wish to look at the possible consequences of a worst- case scenario where viewers lose the Regional Television services that just about provide local news-coverage- ITV1 News Tyne Tees for most of North East England and ITV News Border (Scotland) and Lookaround, Representing Border and Border Life for North Northumbrians that can receive it. For viewers in western North Yorkshire, rural County Durham and south-west Northumberland there is also the loss of BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria)- which with some coverage of Cumbria means good all-round local news- coverage for such areas of western North East England today, this Regional news Programme may also be axed in future decades in a worst- case scenario.

Now, this worst-case scenario for Regional TV in North East England would arise as a result of Recessions and consequent Austerity brought about by spiralling Government Debt and Inflation- and the very expensive commitments to Net Zero and De-carbonising Britain to tackle Global Warming (of which- by the way- I am not personally convinced is so all-round scary as to justify seriously hobbling the UK Economy with high taxation and regulations): In addition there occurs something called a Carrington Event whereby high- powered charged particles from Solar flares erupt from the surface of the Sun and within 24 hours penetrate the Earth’s magnetic field to fry electric grids, TV masts and computer electronics across much of the World- including the UK: There is more on how and why we may be due for a devastating Carrington Event in the next few years in this article https://electroverse.net/minor-cme-leads-to-geomagnetic-storm-grid-failure-all-but-guaranteed-by-2024/.

Such a Carrington Event resulting in a powerful Solar Flare frying electronics across Britain- leaving Britain without lighting, computers, Internet (and yes, Regional Television) for months would seriously hobble the UK Economy. But organisations with computer equipment, recording equipment and transmitters- i.e., Regional Television News services will be inflicted with a particularly huge bill to repair all the fried electronics and transmitters. Consider the huge disruption caused to viewers in North Yorkshire and Teesside- many of whom still have not got all their television channels back- after the Bilsdale transmitter in North Yorkshire caught fire (more of this here: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2021-08-10/telecommunications-mast-in-north-yorkshire-has-caught-fire), the results of a Carrington Event affecting Britain would make the Bilsdale transmitter disruption seem like a walk in the park on a nice day in comparison!

So we have a combination of massive Covid 19 debts, a UK Economy crippled by anti Global Warming measures (the Government should concentrate on real threats, like a Carrington Event- making sure our National Grid has measures in- place to mitigate one), then a major Carrington Event wiping out Britain’s National Grid and electronics infrastruture. That will cause a big Recession, there will be big Austerity- and there will be huge political pressure on both the BBC and ITV.Plc to make economies whilst finding the resources to repair damaged infrastructure: Due to rising opposition from the cash-strapped Public and from Politicians the TV Licence Fee is scrapped in this scenario and the BBC- for the first time in its existence- has to rely on prescriptions, advertising and other forms of private funding (which, following a deep Recession, is hard to come by).

In this worst- case Scenario the BBC discovers it cannot afford to offer so many Regional TV services (as well as other programming) whilst a very market- led Conservative Government allows ITV.Plc to drop Regional Television altogether so it can remain solvent in the face of high reparation costs to the Television Infrastructure fried by a massive Solar flare, falling advertising revenues (not only from firms going bust but also more viewers switching to Online viewing platforms- once the effects of the Carrington Event have been repaired). That same Government then allows the BBC to mothball and amalgamate some of its BBC Regions to survive without TV Licence funding. So by the Year 2050 only BBC1 provides Regional News and the TV Regions are reduced to just nine covering all of the UK- and the Regional News programmes are just 15 minutes a night- with just five-minute Regional bulletins at lunchtime and on Saturday evenings. BBC Local radio also disappears- to be replaced by BBC Radio for each of the Nine British Regions- as follows:

  1. Scotland
  2. Northern Ireland
  3. North West England, North Wales and Isle of Man
  4. Large Northern England Region including northern Cumbria, NE England, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
  5. Central England (both East and West Midlands)
  6. South West England, South Wales and Channel Islands
  7. Eastern England including East Anglia, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Bedfordshire
  8. London
  9. South East England- from Kent to Hampshire up to Oxfordshire.

It is clear that the only Regional TV News readily available across North East England and North Yorkshire will be a new BBC1 Look North covering the North East, all of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire- and probably still northern Cumbria (unless they are transferred to the BBC1 North West and North Wales Region). Viewers in North East England generally would suffer three news-items about West or South Yorkshire, a fourth about Lincolnshire/ East Yorkshire and typically just one news-item about North East England. The Regional News would just be a microcosm of the National News- with 90% of the news not being local to most of the population- and for viewers in Northumberland or northern Cumbria, the situation would be doubly worse with 90% of the “Local Coverage” coming from well over 120 miles away!

Viewers in Northumberland, in particular, would be insulted by being told by the BBC “Now for The News Where You Are”- followed by news about Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Bradford- and it would be a horrible change from possibly getting ITV News Border and Lookaround in North Northumberland, and even much worse compared to ITV1 News Tyne Tees or BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) for southern Northumberland, County Durham, Tyneside or Teesside. Perhaps North Northumbrians could campaign to get the Scottish Regional News instead- thus maximising the chance of the “Local News” getting within 100 miles of their homes!!

One hopes that there is fierce resistance from Northumbrian folk and from Geordies to the prospect of losing ITV1 Border Lookaround, ITV1 News Tyne Tees or BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria version), that the strong resistance of other areas of Britain threatened with a big loss of Regional Television (such as Cumbrians and southern Scots losing ITV1 News Border Lookaround)- as soon as ITV.Plc and the BBC even mooted their plans- would kill off such plans to axe valuable Local and Regional TV News services stone-dead! However, even if the worst should happen there should, by 2050, be a greater range of Online and Digital TV services that provide more localised News, of which outlets such as You Tube-based Hexham TV (here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk0s7GfPKbVGRHHjPTH_BcQ) and also Northumberland TV (see here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRjaNG8hxEey9jHfGPaSuVg) are an early sign. Enough Northumbrians, affected by the loss of specific North East England/ Scottish Borders- specific Regional Television might club together to set up a North East Community TV service or a Northumberland/ Borders Community TV service paid for by local viewers- and others a little further afield who might like to watch it. Communities in North Yorkshire might also club together to provide a more localised North Yorkshire Community TV service that covers North Yorkshire, with a bit of overlap coverage north to Teesside and Durham, a bit west into eastern Cumbria and a bit south into West Yorkshire and East Yorkshire- nowhere else.

Should large numbers of viewers across North East England suffer a loss of more tailored geographic- appropriate Regional News coverage in this way, one hopes that there would still be recourse to complain to one’s MP and to demand that the BBC provide more geographic- appropriate coverage. One would be justified in complaining too, were that to happen: If Regional TV is just a smaller version of the National News- in which over 90% of the news is not local- just what exactly is its purpose? If the BBC do ever decide to have just nine TV Regions covering all of Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands they may as well just abolish Regional Television altogether because the content would not be local to most viewers across the length and breadth of the country!

One would still be able to put pressure on the BBC to provide an opt-out for North East England, or to reserve at least two of the five news-items to be about North East England, by promising to switch over to whatever Digital or Online Local TV alternatives as there may be by 2050, but even if not pressure from angered MPs whose constituents complain about Regional TV should be enough to stop the new BBC1 Look North (super North area) from ignoring viewers north of Northallerton. If Scottish Television (STV) still does Regional TV, North Northumbrians and North Cumbrians could lobby to be able to get Regional TV for southern Scotland and to be included in that STV Region- which would become a kind of reincarnation of ITV News Border if STV acceded to such demands! But, as already mentioned, hopefully there will be Digital/ Online Local News options by 2050- born out of the loss of the ITV1 Regions and some BBC1 Regions- that will provide more localised geographic- appropriate news for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, for North East England and also for North Yorkshire by then: The progress of technology, more TV channels and more Online/ You-tube like TV Services means that will be more likely.

By 2050, there will be very few people still alive that won’t have a Computer- or don’t know how to use a Computer in order to watch something over the Internet, so if the BBC is the only provider of TV Regional News by then they are likely to lose an awful lot of Viewers to Internet-based competition if they just have the nine super-regions covering all of Britain, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands!

Suffice to say, in conclusion, but if there is any hint that ITV.Plc will bring about the loss of ITV News Border or ITV1 News Tyne Tees, or if there is a hint of the BBC threatening to amalgamate the BBC1 North East/ Cumbria transmission Region with the BBC1 Yorkshire and BBC1 East Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire transmission Regions , this Website will mobilise fully against it: I would- were I to become privy to anything remotely like this ever happening– encourage all Viewers of Regional Television in Northumberland, other parts of North East England, in North Yorkshire and northern Cumbria to write to their MPs and to OFCOM to object most forcefully against such plans!!

For the Good Folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed That’s TV Edinburgh/ South Scotland would provide better cross- Border News

14th August 2021

Dear Readers

Berwick upon Tweed and North Northumberland- that is north of Alnwick- have stronger links with the Scottish Borders than the rest of Northumberland. This is not surprising given that Berwick-upon-Tweed was once part of Scotland and that the ancient county of Berwickshire- of which Berwick-upon-Tweed was the administrative town- extends mainly across the eastern end of the Scottish Borders: Berwickshire includes the small village of Blackadder, not far from Duns, which has the dubious honour of having the coldest ever unofficial air-temperature recorded in the UK, a frigid -31˚C (-23˚F) in December 1879 that killed a lot of trees at Blackadder House (reference here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackadder_House).

It is quicker to get to Edinburgh than it is to Newcastle-upon-Tyne by train from Berwick-upon-Tweed and much of the Scottish Central Belt (The Forth- Clyde Valley) is a similar distance and travel-time from Berwick-upon-Tweed and northernmost Northumberland as is Sunderland, Durham and South Shields. All of this has a bearing on Regional Television, as is viewed in this far-northern part of North East England.

The geographic position of Berwick-upon-Tweed and northernmost Northumberland certainly means that they do not get geographic- appropriate news-coverage from ITV News Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria). It is probably fair to say that ITV News Tyne Tees provides slightly more coverage of Northumberland- about 15% of total coverage since their coverage does not have to cater for Cumbria too (as does BBC Look North): Even so, with the Northumberland coverage likely still being well to the south- in places like Cramlington or the Morpeth area much of the time- and with the rest of the news being about Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside it is certainly not satisfactory for viewers of Regional Television in North Northumberland. They nonetheless- will never find out about happenings across the Scottish Border from the main North East England Regional TV News services.

Now, it is possible for viewers in Berwick-upon-Tweed to get ITV News Border (Scottish version) with the flagship Regional News programme Lookaround. Parts of North Northumberland can get a signal from the Selkirk transmitter, in the Scottish Borders, which carries ITV News Border (Scotland). If that is not possible ITV Border Lookaround is usually put on the ITV News Border website (here: https://www.itv.com/news/border) after it is aired live, and that usually has 25 to 30% coverage of the Scottish Borders with Berwick-upon-Tweed. This is more geographic- appropriate than ITV News Tyne Tees– in which the most northerly news is over sixty miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

With all that said, ITV Border Lookaround does focus more on Cumbria and south-west Scotland (where most of the population in the ITV Border transmission areas live), and although much of that area is near the Scottish Border, it is in no way local to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Carlisle is further from Berwick than Sunderland is- and it would take longer to get to Carlisle since the roads from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Carlisle- the A698 and A7 through the Scottish Borders- are not fast trunk-roads let alone dual carriageways! Furthermore, ITV Border Lookaround rarely covers happenings nearer to Edinburgh, which is less than an hour away from Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. However, the Scottish version of ITV News Border, transmitted from the Selkirk transmitter does have two news-programmes Representing Border (which covers the Scottish Parliament extensively) and Border Life (which focusses on issues and current affairs affecting communities in southern Scotland). Together these will provide more coverage of issues pertaining to the Scottish Borders. If you watch these programmes- and watch ITV Border Lookaround you will get yourself about 35% coverage of the Scottish Borders/ Berwick-upon-Tweed. To get the news to the south of you, including southern Northumberland you can also watch ITV News Tyne Tees., which does- as I have mentioned- have a slightly higher proportion of Northumberland news than does BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) because the former doesn’t have to cater for 300,000 potential Cumbrian viewers.

Thus, if you watch ITV News Tyne Tees then later ITV Border (Scotland) from the website when the evening’s Lookaround has been loaded (usually about 8.30 pm), and then catch up with the latest issues of Border Life and Representing Border you will get the best that you can for all-round local news-coverage for northern Northumberland.

In order to find out what is happening nearer Edinburgh – because you commute there or have family relatives in those areas- there’s That’s TV Edinburgh/ South Scotland (link here: http://www.thats.tv/edinburgh-south-scotland/) which is on Freeview Channel 8. However, you will need your TV aerial to have a clear view towards Selkirk, which carries a Freeview signal- and the That’s TV Local channel from the Selkirk transmitter will be That’s TV Edinburgh/ South Scotland, which broadcasts at 6.pm every week-day on Freeview Channel 8. If you live near Berwick-upon-Tweed it should be possible to get this Regional News service with a clear view to the west. If you cannot get the Selkirk signal then you will have to stick with getting ITV News Border from the Internet.

Whatever you do, if you feel you have to switch to another ITV Region- or indeed to watch That’s TV Edinburgh/ South Scotland to get more geographic- appropriate news-coverage do write to ITV News Tyne Tees- email amyandian@itv.com because Amy Lea and Ian Payne, the ITV News Tyne Tees Presenters are also the Presenters for ITV Border’s Lookaround! They might, if North Northumbrians are insistent enough, put some more Northumberland and even Scottish Borders news-coverage into ITV News Tyne Tees for the benefit of Northumberland viewers. Write to BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) too at email: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk and remind programmers that northern Cumbria is certainly not the only part of their very large transmission area really needing more geographic-appropriate news-coverage and that the Berwick-upon-Tweed area needs a bit more good all-round local news-coverage!

It is certainly appropriate for viewers in North Northumberland to write to the two main North East England Regional TV News- services that are the default for Northumberland and to complain about the geographic- appropriate coverage, then explaining that this is why they are trying to get ITV News Border or even That’s TV Edinburgh/ South Scotland. It is a sad state of affairs when local viewers have to scrabble around for a more local TV News service- or for a Regional News service that is not the default for their area (for which it may be hard to get a signal) to gain more geographic- appropriate news-coverage in keeping with their particular regional affiliation. However, North Northumbrians swivelling their aerials and switching channels may have to happen on a significant scale before ITV Tyne Tees and BBC North East/ Cumbria feel that they really have to do something about it- and start covering Northumberland more- complete with overlap into the Scottish Borders.

A Regional News- Service for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders

July 2021

Dear Readers

The vast rural area of northern Britain that encompasses rural mid and northern Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, West and East Lothian (just south and east of Edinburgh) along with the extreme north of Cumbria north of Carlisle covers an area of some 5,000 square miles:  For all practical purposes this massive rural area is bounded by the A69 east from the M6 to Throckley (near Newcastle-upon-Tyne) in the south, a line from Throckley to Ashington on the SE Northumberland Coast to the south-east, the Northumberland Coast and Scottish Borders/ East Lothian Coast up as far as North Berwick to the east/ north-east then the A1 and A720 south of Edinburgh then A71 west as far as Junction 8 of the M74 (near Motherwell) to the north-west. To the west, this vast area is bounded by the M74 and the northernmost extent of the M6 from SE of Motherwell to Carlisle.

This is a huge geographical area, but it is not served well by Regional Television- even ITV1 Border’s Lookaround which is broadcast to most of the Scottish part of this area- and which does include Berwick-upon-Tweed news-coverage typically only has about 30% coverage of this huge area. Of course, ITV1 Border’s programming, which includes the political programme Representing Border and also Border Life (which specifically covers southern Scotland and is only watched on ITV1 Border (Scotland)) is by far the best Regional TV News service for anywhere in this vast area. The extreme north of Cumbria and western tip of Northumberland also receive ITV1 Border Lookaround from ITV1 Border (England) and as local news-coverage goes it is the best that there is for those areas.

BRIGHT EARLY SPRING DAY IN THE CHEVIOTS. VIEW LOOKING SOUTH-EAST FROM ROAD SE OF KIRK YETHOLM IN THE SCOTTISH BORDERS, MARCH 2005. THE LARGE REGION ENCOMPASSING NORTHERN NORTHUMBERLAND AND THE SCOTTISH BORDERS SUFFERS FROM A LACK OF GEOGRAPHIC APPROPRIATE LOCAL AND REGIONAL TV NEWS-COVERAGE.

The coverage on BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) on the evening of 22nd July was illustrative: There was just one news- item concerning Northumberland when water-restrictions affecting the North East- following hot dry weather- were discussed. There was a report about Hallington Reservoir (just east of the A68 about 10 miles north of Corbridge) together with a very dry River Tyne at Corbridge. No other news north of the Tyne was covered whilst there was extensive coverage of proposed County and District Council re-organisations in Cumbria and North Yorkshire- which (with the exception of the far south-west of this huge area that just extends into northernmost Cumbria)- is largely irrelevant, particularly for northern Northumberland.

Communities within this large area of rural Northumberland and southern Scotland east of the M74 have more in common with each other- rugged, rural with strong local connections between them- than with the urban areas outside of it, either the urban North East of England, the Central Belt between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland or indeed the city of Carlisle. However, because this huge area straddles across a de-facto national boundary (which also provides a hard transmission border between TV Regions) this vast rural area is diminished as a region in its own right.

There are strong links between rural Northumberland and southern Scotland, particularly the Scottish Borders and likewise strong links between the extreme north of Cumbria, rural western Northumberland and across the border into southern Scotland. Even local politicians now recognise that this large region is a distinct region which, together with Cumbria, is home to over 1.1 million inhabitants and which will be regenerated through the Borderlands Growth Deal (here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/450-million-borderlands-growth-deal-now-underway). Of course, it can be said that ITV1 Border covers this large area, and it is true that ITV1 Border (whether the English or Scottish version) is the default ITV1 Region for most of Cumbria, the Scottish Borders and south-west Scotland. However, one would struggle to get ITV1 Border programming without either the Internet or Sky TV across most of rural Northumberland and it is not the default Regional News- service immediately south and east of Edinburgh nor those parts of South Lanarkshire that are in the north-west of this large rural region (and where the default independent Regional TV is Scottish Television (STV)).

The links between communities across this Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ rural Lothian Region are numerous: Berwick-upon-Tweed has a football team in the Scottish football leagues and Berwick-upon-Tweed is the county town of the ancient county of Berwickshire (most of which extended across what is today the Scottish Borders). The Union Chain Bridge across the River Tweed from Fishwick in Northumberland to the Scottish Borders is another example of the links between Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. The town of North Berwick, in East Lothian- along the southern shore of the Firth of Forth- is actually slightly north of Edinburgh and the town was named as such in the 13th Century to distinguish it from Berwick-upon-Tweed then distinguished as South Berwick by the Scots (this being part of Scotland at the time).

This large region has somewhat different weather than the urban North East, the Scottish lowlands and Carlisle: It is rugged, with most of this huge region being above 200 metres’ elevation and its only coast is with the relatively chilly northern North Sea. As a result, the weather here is often significantly colder than the North East coastal cities and the Forth Clyde valley between Glasgow and Edinburgh, particularly from autumn through Spring. Overnight 10th/ 11th January 1982- during an exceptionally severe wintry spell of weather in Britain- the temperature fell to -26.6˚C at Bowness, near Selkirk and -26.2˚C at West Linton (both in the Scottish Borders) (pp164-165, http://www.ijmet.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/69.pdf). The temperature also fell to -21˚C at Haydon Bridge, Northumberland that night. In early December 2010 another extremely cold spell brought minima of -14˚C or colder across parts of rural Northumberland and the Scottish Borders including -19.5˚C recorded at Redesdale. Daytime maxima were widely below -5˚C on 20th December 2010 across this large geographic area (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/binaries/content/assets/metofficegovuk/pdf/weather/learn-about/uk-past-events/interesting/2010/snow-and-low-temperatures-december-2010—met-office.pdf ). Meanwhile, both in January 1982 and December 2010, extreme minima and low maxima were typically 5˚C less bitterly-cold (and less snowy) than across rural Northumberland and the Scottish Borders- which logs some of the most extreme winter cold recorded anywhere in the UK (including the Scottish Highlands and Grampians of NE Scotland) during cold winters!

Suffice to say, the conditions affecting this large (and decidedly upland) rural area- and the issues affecting folk living in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders/ Lothian are decidedly different to the issues affecting folk in the adjacent, more urban lowlands to the north-west and to the south-east. For some-one living in (say) Wooler, Coldstream or Jedburgh what happens in Tyneside, Wearside, Glasgow, or Stirling is of little, if any, relevance to their day- to- day lives unless (that is) they have family living there. Folk living in these places would much rather have their Local and Regional News to be about Berwick-upon-Tweed, Galashiels, or Kelso, that is within an hour’s drive and among places that they are likely to visit, commute to or go shopping in and where the issues concerned (like rural transport or hill- farming) will be the issues more likely to affect them.

Such a huge and distinct area in its own right should have its own Regional News programming: ITV1 Border (Scotland) goes some way towards providing tailored coverage of southern Scotland, northernmost Northumberland and (of course) Cumbria but not every part of this large region- not least those on the Northumberland side- can access it. To be fair, ITV1 Border (Scotland) provides about 35% coverage concerning far northern Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and easternmost Dumfriesshire for viewers on the Scottish side of the Border- particularly since the ITV1 Border (Scotland)- only productions Border Life and Representing Border concern southern Scotland, albeit with plenty of coverage of what happens in the Scottish Parliament. However, given the size of this huge Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ Lothian region of northern Britain the areas where localised programming can be seen and the total of areas covered scarcely begin to do justice to such a large region, distinct as it is from the lowland urban North East and also the urbanised Scottish lowlands along the M8 Corridor, even though ITV1 Border (Scotland) comes closest to providing this massive region with geographic- appropriate coverage.

Thus, one of three things needs to happen so that this large Border region gets much more geographic- appropriate Regional Television coverage and these invariably involve either the BBC or ITV1.Plc spending more money on Regional TV:

  • The BBC provides 15-minute opt-out coverage from both BBC1 Reporting Scotland and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) for rural Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, West and East Lothian, eastern Dumfriesshire, and SE South Lanarkshire. This would be transmitted from new news- studios in Berwick-upon-Tweed or Selkirk and it would provide tailored news-coverage for this large Border Region. Viewers in the extreme north of Cumbria, north-east of Carlisle should also be able to access this BBC1 Border opt-out. The entire Border region would then receive some 50 to 55% coverage although the net cost would be some £2 million a year (cost of new studio, recording equipment, new reporter and changing transmission patterns, less the reduction in costs of reporters having to travel from Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Glasgow to cover North Northumberland or the Scottish Borders).
  • ITV Tyne Tees provides 15 minutes’ opt-out coverage from within its main Regional News bulletin for Northumberland- with viewers transferred to ITV1 Border (Scotland) which also receives this special opt-out coverage (from ITV1 Border Lookaround) covering Northumberland and southern Scotland- including the Lothian areas just south and east of Edinburgh.  This means that viewers in the north of the ITV1 Tyne Tees Region and in ITV1 Border (Scotland) receive this specialised opt-out coverage from the old Selkirk Opt-Out from ready-made studios in Selkirk. This measure would lead to the large Border region getting 45% coverage. Given there is already an ITV1 Border (Scotland) presence in Selkirk, the only additional cost is a couple of reporters/ editors and changing ITV transmission patterns to accommodate the opt-outs. Net cost likely to be around £1 million per annum but may fall to zero with higher viewer-satisfaction (and viewing figures) in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders leading to increased advertising revenue both for ITV1 Border and ITV1 Tyne Tees.
  • Central and northern Northumberland is transferred to the ITV1 Border (Scotland) transmission Region which then provides 20 minutes’ bespoke southern Scotland and Northumberland coverage in an opt-out from ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. This would lead to 65% coverage of this entire Border region at a cost of little over £1 million annually initially (the Selkirk studio already exists, and it is used for Border Life and Representing Border (which are seen on ITV1 Border (Scotland)), but higher viewer satisfaction and viewing figures would lead to higher advertising revenues to ITV.Plc offsetting most or all of this cost within a few years.

Unfortunately, anything that costs money is likely to be resisted by the BBC and ITV.Plc, so if you live in rural Northumberland and want more geographic-appropriate news-coverage which also extends across the Scottish Border you will have to write in (giving them the above suggestions). Tell ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria about the lack of appropriate news-coverage for your community- and point out that, as far as you are concerned- your area of interest does not stop at the Scottish Border.

BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) can be contacted at this Email: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk, or you can write to: BBC Look North, Broadcasting Centre, Barrack Road, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE. NE99 2NE. 

ITV1 News Tyne Tees can be contacted at this Email: ttvnews@itv.com, or you can write to:   ITV News Tyne Tees, Television House, The Watermark, GATESHEAD. NE11 9SZ. 

An interesting aside, one which is a legacy of the tie-up between the ITV1 Tyne Tees and ITV1 Border TV Regions is that the main presenters who currently present ITV1 News Tyne Tees, that is Ian Payne and Amy Lea, are the same presenters who front ITV1 Border’s Lookaround- programmes being produced and aired from The Watermark in Gateshead! Their email-address is amyandian@itv.com. Because of the geography of the areas that they cover in their bulletins, both Ian Payne and Amy Lea ought to be open to the idea of overlap coverage for those areas close to the ITV1 Tyne Tees and ITV1 Border transmission boundary- i.e., in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. This applies for viewers in the Scottish Borders (who receive ITV Border (Scotland) programming) who might want to know a bit more about Northumberland as well as North Northumbrian viewers who might want to know what is happening over the Border in southern Scotland (and who receive ITV1 Tyne Tees programming). I am sure that Ian Payne and Amy Lea could discuss these issues and collaborate with ITV1 bosses to work out what’s best for Northumberland- including transferring mid and northern Northumberland to the ITV1 Border (Scotland) transmission area!       

If, after writing to them, ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria fail to address your concerns after you have written to them and have received a reply, then contact OFCOM:  OFCOM make clear that the BBC and ITV.Plc must provide locally-relevant content for all their viewers as a condition of their Public Service Broadcast (PSB) licences.  Get your friends who live locally to do the same.

Write (don’t merely email) to OFCOM’s Complaints Department at:

OFCOM Complaints, PO Box 1285, WARRINGTON. WA1 9GL

OFCOM is the one organisation with powers to put pressure on Regional TV providers to make them cover all areas effectively.  However, if your pleas fall on deaf ears write to your local Member of Parliament who will be as follows dependent on where you live in Northumberland:

Berwick-upon-Tweed:  Right Hon. Lady Anne Marie Trevelyan, MP.

Email: annemarie.trevelyan.mp@parliament.uk

Hexham:  Right Hon. Sir Guy Opperman, MP.

Email:  guy.opperman@parliament.uk

Wansbeck:  Right Hon. Sir Ian Lavery, MP. Email: ian.lavery.mp@parliament.uk

However, your MP can always be contacted at the following address if you wish to write (which I would advise as emails often get filtered by Parliamentary Secretaries and you want to maximise the chance that your communication reaches its intended recipient) :

House of Commons, Westminster, LONDON. SW1A 0AA.

Get several of your friends to write to the local MP about Regional TV coverage locally, so that your MP puts pressure on the North East Regional TV services to provide better coverage of Northumberland- with overlap into the Scottish Borders: That is likely to result in either BBC1 North East/ Cumbria or ITV1 Tyne Tees resolving to cover the north of their transmission areas better.

Above all, write to ITV1 News Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) to state that unless improvements in news- coverage North of the Tyne are made that you will seek alternative sources of local programming, which do exist. If you live in Northumberland there’s You Tube based Hexham TV (which focusses on Tynedale and which can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/watch/Hexhamtv/) and there’s also Northumberland TV (https://www.youtube.com/user/NorthumberlandTV). These are both You Tube based and could not be considered a proper Local TV service, but there are sufficient local news clips that can be watched in lieu of the often- irrelevant North East Regional News- services that cover Sunderland, Teesside and North Yorkshire more (and with most coverage not being within an hour’s drive of your home). Then, if you can get ITV1 Border (Scotland) via your TV aerial then do so: If you point your TV aerial north and it has a clear view into Scotland you should be able to get a signal. Failing that ITV1 Border (Scotland) programming can be accessed from the Internet from the ITV1 Border website (here: https://www.itv.com/news/border), from where you can find links to watch ITV1 Border’s Lookaround and editions of the most- recent southern Scotland- focussed programmes Border Life and Representing Border.

All of this will give you local coverage of Northumberland and also news across the Border into southern Scotland that neither ITV1 News Tyne Tees nor BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) will touch, but which are  areas that may well be of interest to you because you visit them in nice weather, commute there or even have close friends and family living there. ITV1 Border’s Lookaround does also have some coverage of northernmost Northumberland- around Berwick-upon-Tweed, so you would get more local coverage from it than from ITV1 News Tyne Tees if you live near Berwick-upon-Tweed.

If, as a north Northumbrian viewer, you do have to get more relevant local news- coverage from these other sources so that you get news that is local and that covers areas that you frequent, then do inform the main North East England -based Regional TV News- services of your intention to do this: The very fact that viewers have alternative sources for Regional News coverage might make the Regional News programmers based in Tyneside take note- and they might adjust their programming and coverage (perhaps by providing a North of Tyne opt-out) so that they don’t lose custom. You can point out to ITV1 News Tyne Tees that if you have to go onto the Internet to watch ITV1 Border (Scotland) programming that ITV1 will lose advertising revenues because advertisers go by TV audiences when deciding to place an advert on ITV1 Tyne Tees or ITV1 Border (Scotland). It is easier to avoid adverts on the Internet! That will incentivise ITV1 Tyne Tees programmers to cover Northumberland and provide overlap into southern Scotland more.

Do be encouraged that People Power can- and does- work. Thirty-five years ago, the BBC in their wisdom decided that viewers in Carlisle and North Cumbria should get their Regional News from Manchester- with 80% coverage of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire- simply because the BBC decided all Cumbrians should get North West news: This was done in a way that upset lots of viewers who really liked Mike Neville, the main BBC Look North (Newcastle) presenter at that time. Uproar ensued, the local Carlisle newspaper Evening News and Star got involved as did local MPs representing North Cumbrian constituencies as people wrote in. There was a very strong lobby that the “local news” was not local and that folk living in North Cumbria tended to travel to Newcastle or Gateshead for major shopping trips, to go to the airport, etc., rather than travel to Manchester (which is twice the distance). Eventually, after five years, the social and political pressure on the BBC caused a re-think and North Cumbria was transferred back to the BBC North East Region.

That’s not to say that Cumbrians would not benefit from a more North West- or rather Cumbrian-flavoured news-programming (which they actually get from ITV1 Border’s Lookaround), but the truth is nowhere north of Preston ever really got (or gets) appropriate local and Regional  news-coverage from BBC1 North West Tonight, even less for those stuck with ITV1 Granada Reports! For folk living as far north as Carlisle or Silloth, such a “local news” service must have come across as downright insulting!

So, People-Power can work! It might take five years of campaigning for rural and northern Northumberland to get a more local and geographic- appropriate news- coverage, and this Website will be full- square behind you, but don’t give up! If you write to the Regional News providers, write to Ian Payne and Amy Lea at ITV1 Tyne Tees/ Border and then (if your pleas fall on deaf ears) to OFCOM and your Member of Parliament Regional Programme-Producers will get the message and North Northumbrians will eventually get the Regional News- programming that they should appropriately and rightly have!