Viewers in rural Western County Durham and northern Yorkshire Dales also get little local news- coverage in Regional TV bulletins

4th July 2021

Dear Readers

I live in the extreme north-east of Cumbria near the remote village of Nenthead in the North Pennines: The North Pennines and surrounding rural areas covers a really large area and for the purposes of Regional Television News- coverage. It is bounded by the Tyne gap and A69 to the north, the A68 then the A1 south of Darlington to the east, the A684 from Northallerton to Sedbergh in the south and a line running parallel to (but five miles eastwards of) the M6 in the west.

VIEW TOWARDS NENTHEAD FROM THE A689 JUST WEST OF THIS VILLAGE NEAR TO THE CUMBRIA/ NORTHUMBERLAND BORDER ON 9TH FEBRUARY 2018. THIS WAS A FINE BUT COLD SNOWY DAY LOCALLY, SNOW AND ICE BEING SOMETHING THAT AFFECTS LOCATIONS ABOVE 300 METRES’ ELEVATION IN THE NORTH PENNINES IN WINTER MUCH MORE THAN IN THE SURROUNDING LOWLANDS OF TYNEDALE (NORTHUMBERLAND) AND THE EDEN VALLEY (CUMBRIA). HOWEVER, NEITHER THE NORTH PENNINES NOR THE UNIQUE ISSUES FACING PEOPLE LIVING THERE GAIN MUCH MENTION IN THE TYNESIDE- BASED REGIONAL NEWS- BULLETINS SERVING THE NORTH PENNINES

This huge area of the North Pennines and northern Yorkshire Dales is home to almost 100,000 inhabitants and this is a significant proportion of the numbers of viewers who would watch (say) ITV1 Border’s Lookaround news- programme. Most of this area receives Regional News- programming from the North East, although most of the Cumbrian viewers along the western and north-western edges of the North Pennines can receive ITV1 Border programming. Cumbrian viewers around and just east of Sedbergh can also tune into BBC1 North West Tonight. But for most viewers in this area, including Alston Moor in east Cumbria, the choices are ITV1 Tyne Tees News or BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria).

None of the main Regional News services serving the North Pennines and northern Yorkshire Dales cover those areas particularly well. Many of the rural communities in these locations are not only at least an hour’s travel time from Tyneside or Teesside, but they are also an hour’s drive from Carlisle and over two hour’s drive from Whitehaven or  Workington (West Cumbria) or Dumfries (south-west Scotland).  This is certainly true of the very rural community of Alston Moor, where I live and the upper Eden Valley around Brough and Kirkby Stephen where- on any given day- about 20% of the news- coverage might be about locations within an hour’s drive of one’s community.

Cumbrian viewers who live westwards of the Cross Fell range and in all the eastern side of the Eden Valley are fortunate in that they can pick up ITV1 Border, from which coverage of Cumbria is very good although not much of it is east of the M6. Further east your ready choices are ITV1 Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) with 85% coverage about North East England (and little of this is coverage westwards of the A68 or of the northern Yorkshire Dales- where folk also receive North East- based Regional TV programming).

For viewers who live in these remote North Pennines communities, whose lives are far-removed from the urban areas of North East England to the east and Carlisle/ West Cumbria to the west Regional Television News- coverage is not good enough. Some of the news will be Regionally local (i.e., over 30 minutes away but less than an hour’s travel time away) but much of it won’t even be that. Very little news-coverage (if any) will be Immediate Local, that is about happenings within a 30- minute drive of one’s community. To some extent, folk in very rural areas have to travel further to towns to see doctors, dentists, go shopping or go to work, but in 2021 folk can order much of what they need over the Internet (so that argument holds less than it used to).

However, the population of this large geographical area will never be deemed sufficient for Regional News- broadcasters to provide opt-outs just for the North Pennines. However, what can happen is for the Regional News- providers, particularly the North East -based ones, to be made very aware of the large rural hinterlands towards the west of their transmission areas (and to the north across Northumberland) that need more coverage. A couple of news-items about the North Pennines a night would make a huge difference to  viewers living in (say) Allenheads or Garrigill watching BBC Look North: These North Pennines’ viewers would greatly appreciate their communities being covered instead of places that they seldom travel to hogging all the news- coverage.

A bit further south, viewers in towns like Brough, Middleton-in-Teesdale or Hawes are left even less- impressed with coverage mainly of Tyneside, Wearside, or Teesside, with a little bit of Carlisle and the Lakes thrown in (90% or more of the coverage would be over an hour’s drive away). Viewers in the Richmondshire area of North Yorkshire could switch over to ITV1 Calendar or the Leeds-based version of BBC1 Look North (if they could pick these signals up) to try to gain more coverage of their county and of the Yorkshire Dales, in practice they will find 85% coverage of urban West/ South Yorkshire plus northern Nottinghamshire in the coverage (which is even further away than the urban North East or Carlisle!). All things considered, there remains a large rural area covering the western third of North East England, the northern Yorkshire Dales and rural Cumbria well east of the M6 where viewers do not get very localised news- coverage, and often neither do the subjects covered have much direct relevance to the lives of people in this large rural hinterland of northern England.

If you live in these areas, drug crimes on Tyneside, busy hotels in the Lake District or Nissan axing jobs in Sunderland- will not speak to you about your concerns. As a farmer in the North Pennines, you will worry about late spring snowfalls killing lambs or summer rains making hay-harvesting impossible.

Most folk living in small towns like Haltwhistle, Alston, Brough- or Keld (in the northern Yorkshire Dales)- will have had little cause to visit Sunderland, Durham City, Teesside or- in the North West- Whitehaven or Cockermouth (and they will have been unlikely to have done so except just a few times in their lives). With regards to my own family (who have been born and bred on Alston Moor) I can count on one hand the times myself or my parents have visited Sunderland, Durham City and Teesside, although we attended Sunderland several times in the 1990’s. I went to Sunderland with my brother and uncle in February to help my niece (who was living there) move house- and that was a first for myself since 1995. Neither myself, not my parents (with the possible exception of my brother) have ever been to Cockermouth or Whitehaven, towns which are up to two hours’ drive away.

The BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) transmission area covers a huge area encompassing all of North East England, the northern two-thirds of North Yorkshire (in itself the largest county in England) and the northern two-thirds of Cumbria (Cumbria is the second- largest county in England). In this huge transmission area, which extends well over 100 miles from the Scottish Border to Harrogate and over 100 miles west- to- east from St. Bees Head to Middlesbrough there is a large geographic area (accounting for some 40% of this entire area) which stretches from near the Scottish Border to the A684 which runs east to west along the far south of the BBC North East/ Cumbria transmission area- and which is bounded by the A68 and North Yorkshire A1 in the east and a north-south line running parallel to- but just east of- the M6 in the west. And yet this huge geographical area encompassing the North Pennines, the northern Yorkshire Dales and the Hadrian’s Wall countryside between Carlisle and Corbridge gets very little local news- coverage.

Regional News Programmers at the BBC will undoubtedly point out that BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) is a Regional News-programme providing Regional News, which is (by that definition) not strictly local. There are two major issues with that argument: Firstly that people watch the Regional News (advertised by the BBC as “The News Where You Are” just before the Regional News bulletins) to find out what is happening in their community and the surrounding communities they frequent for work, shopping or leisure. Secondly, the BBC Charter stipulates that the BBC must provide output that is relevant to people in all parts of the United Kingdom. Since the North Pennines covers quite a large geographical area with local issues and concerns different to other parts of North East England or Cumbria (many of the communities here are over 300 metres above sea-level so issues surrounding heavy winter and even spring snowfalls -compounding isolation from distant towns- is much more of a concern that it is in the surrounding lowlands)- it follows that BBC Regional News programming should cover the North Pennines and northern Yorkshire Dales regularly in keeping with BBC Charter obligations: But they don’t!

However, it is not just BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) that barely covers the North Pennines. ITV1 News Tyne Tees seldom acknowledges that there is life west of the A1 at all and even ITV1 Border’s flagship  Lookaround programme does not cover locations to the east of the M6 much (even though some 50% or more of the coverage is about Cumbria). Viewers in South Cumbria receive BBC1 North West Tonight and although there will often be something about Cumbria on the programme most nights, seldom do they concern themselves with anywhere east of the M6 (particularly not if it’s just north of their transmission area)- so North West Gypsies don’t get told about Appleby Fair!

Thus, viewers who live in the North Pennines, Hadrian’s Wall country, the upper Eden Valley and the northern Yorkshire Dales (which, incidentally extends west to take in Sedbergh and Garsdale Head- just over the border into Cumbria) have no real alternatives to poor local coverage wherever they are. Viewers who live in County Durham west of the A68, Richmondshire in North Yorkshire or Tynedale in Northumberland would do well to email BBC Look North at:  look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk and complain about the absence of coverage of the more rural western parts of North East England, whilst reminding them of the BBC Charter obligations. Viewers on Alston Moor, in Cumbria who cannot easily pick up ITV1 Border can do the same explaining that there is a large rural area between the A68 in the east and the M6 in Cumbria that hardly gets any attention!

Viewers of Regional Television who live in eastern Cumbria, east of the M6 (with the exception of Alston Moor in the extreme east of the county) can get ITV1 Border which, it has to be said, covers the county extremely well. That said -and loath as I am to criticise ITV1 Border’s flagship Regional News programme Lookaround (because it does provide a very good Local/ Regional News- service for its viewers overall) locations in Cumbria that are east of the M6 are not even covered well on ITV1 Border. However, it is fair to say that the Cumbrian Pennines- from Sedbergh and the upper Lune Valley in the south through upper and eastern Eden to Brampton in the north gets better coverage on ITV1 Border than the Durham Dales, Richmondshire and Tynedale get covered on ITV1 News Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria). Even so, there is still room for improvement and ITV1 Border could cover the North Pennines more- even overlapping into upper Weardale, Teesdale and Tynedale- for the benefit of viewers in the east of Cumbria. ITV1 Border can be emailed at: btvnews@itv.com: Do write in and let them know that the North Pennines is a major hinterland bordering and extending over eastern Cumbria- and that this area needs more coverage.    

If viewers are not happy with the reply from BBC1 North East/ Cumbria or from ITV1 Border they can take their complaint about poor local coverage to the Right Hon. Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport at the following address:

Right Hon. Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State,

Department of Digital Culture Media & Sport, 100 Parliament Street, LONDON. SW1A 2BQ

It is best to write, rather than email if one has been knocked back by the BBC  because a written letter, marked F.A.O Right Hon Oliver Dowden, is much more likely to get past Spam- filters and Secretaries. If enough people write in there is more likelihood of Regional TV News Programmers in Newcastle or Gateshead (ITV1 Border’s Lookaround is produced in Gateshead) being reminded from on-high of their responsibilities to viewers in large rural parts of their transmission areas.

In the meantime, viewers who live in the North Pennines and northern Yorkshire Dales can explore how they might get better local coverage for themselves even if the BBC in the North East, ITV Tyne Tees and ITV1 Border make no changes. Viewers in Tynedale in Northumberland can make a point of watching You Tube based Hexham TV (website address: https://hexhamtv.com/), because that covers Tynedale- on the northern side of the North Pennines- well. Unfortunately, the remainder of the North Pennines have no dedicated local TV service that they can tune into, although if you live in the Cumbrian Pennines you would be better watching ITV1 Border in conjunction with BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) to maximise your likelihood of gaining coverage of events within 30 minutes’ drive of your home. Viewers who live on Alston Moor would do well to try to tune into ITV1 Border, rather than stick with ITV1 Tyne Tees because that way they gain a higher chance of finding out what is happening locally, then they can watch BBC1 Look North to get the news from a bit further afield.

Unfortunately, there are no very local TV news- services for the Durham Dales (Weardale, Teesdale or upper Derwentside), so viewers in north-west County Durham could supplement their viewing of BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria)- which will provide one with better all- round coverage than ITV1 News Tyne Tees (the latter of which seldom gets west of the A1, let alone the A68). Viewers in north-west County Durham could watch the You Tube based Hexham TV (which will cover areas still local but just north of them). Viewers in Teesdale have no specialised local TV service either but the same advice applies over with regards BBC1 Look North vs. ITV1 News Tyne Tees– BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) will provide better all- round coverage than ITV1 News Tyne Tees and the same argument applies for viewers living in the northern Yorkshire Dales.

Viewers in rural Teesdale in County Durham and the Richmondshire area of North Yorkshire have no local TV service, but they can -instead of watching ITV1 News Tyne Tees get more “relevant local news” from the following sites in this Internet age, namely:

  1. Our Yorkshire Farm(!): Day to day life at Ravenseat Farm, near Keld, upper Swaledale. If you are a farmer in Swaledale the “news” you will get from this is more local than anything you will get from Regional TV, likewise for farmers living in rural Teesdale. This link has up-to-date news and clips from Amanda Owen, a full-time shepherdess who owns Ravenseat Farm:  https://www.facebook.com/yorkshireshepherdess.  This farm featured in a BBC1 series called Our Yorkshire Farm. The Twitter link has some interesting clips which one can watch: https://twitter.com/AmandaOwen8/ . Whilst this is not a Regional TV News service in any way, if you live in rural northern North Yorkshire or rural south-west County Durham (and you have Internet) you will get more sympathetic coverage and relevance to your lives from the video-clips than you will get off BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria), let alone ITV1 News Tyne Tees.
  • That’s TV North Yorkshire- Freeview Channel 7- is available in North Yorkshire. It has news-coverage of the county and is much more likely to cover the local area than either of the mainstream Regional TV News channels. Link to it here: http://www.thats.tv/north-yorkshire/.    
  • County Durham Live has a good deal of news mainly concerning County Durham, there should be something covering the Durham Dales in it: Although it is mainly a news- website it does have short video clips covering significant events. Website here: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/all-about/county-durham.   

In order to have a maximum impact on the News Programmers at BBC1 Look North (NE and Cumbria) and ITV1 News Tyne Tees, viewers in the North Pennines who receive their output not only need to complain about the lack of coverage than comes within an hour’s drive of their communities, they also must demonstrate that there are alternatives that they are prepared to watch- or indeed use- as their source of local news instead: Otherwise there is no real pressure on programme- producers to make sure all parts of their transmission area feel that they receive sufficient appropriate local news- coverage.  

The six options for local news listed above (including Hexham TV mentioned above) are all valid dependent to some extent where you live in the North Pennines or northern Yorkshire Dales. If you are a farmer who lives in rural Swaledale then “Our Yorkshire Farm” and the “Yorkshire Shepherdess” Facebook page will speak to you about your concerns, and it is local to your area.  So, if you are a farmer who lives near Thwaite, Muker or Reeth in Swaledale, northern North Yorkshire, tell BBC1 North East/ Cumbria that you will watch Our Yorkshire Farm and watch clips off Amanda Owen’s Twitter profile to get local news that is more relevant to you- or, if you want to be really radical you can tell them that you will try and get ITV1 Border’s Lookaround which has excellent coverage of rural issues topically-relevant to you in not-far-away Cumbria (even though the Cumbrian Pennines does not get a massive amount of coverage off ITV1 Border)!

Of course, ITV1 Border covers Cumbria in general extremely well, but Cumbrian viewers of ITV1 Border programming who live east of the M6 should write in to remind ITV1 Border Programmers that Cumbria includes more than just Carlisle and the Lake District- and tell the programmers that the rural east of the county feels neglected in news- coverage. But viewers who live just over the county boundary- in North Yorkshire, County Durham and the Tynedale area of Northumberland should also try ditching ITV1 News Tyne Tees in favour of ITV1 Border’s Lookaround. It’s not difficult to do if you have Sky TV or have an ITV Hub subscription (just £3.99 a month to join, by the way). You could still watch BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) for North East coverage and, though ITV1 Border’s coverage will be well to the west of you (and northwards of you in the case of the southern Scottish coverage), it does focus on those rural concerns that are more likely to be your concerns (i.e., hill- farming, rural public transport) because ITV1 Border’s transmission areas are amongst the most rural in the UK.

The sacrifice of a little inconvenience to spite oneself with the main Regional TV News- producers that are not covering your area can, in some circumstances, be a strong and positive campaigning force for good. If just ten percent of the viewers in the North Pennines and the northern Yorkshire Dales switched over to watch ITV1 Border’s Lookaround and watched one of the six Local News services (listed above) – in lieu of BBC1 Look North and ITV News Tyne Tees the main Regional TV News Providers serving the large area between the M6, the A68 and the A684 will be forced to sit up and take note- particularly if those viewers also wrote in to the Tyneside-based Regional TV News producers to say why they were switching channels. ITV.Plc, in particular, does not like losing viewers because that means less advertising revenue and, therefore, money- and “Money Talks” or (in this case) the threatened loss of it does!          

North Northumbrians Would Benefit from Collaboration between BBC1 Look North and ITV1 Tyne Tees

The Coast at Alnmouth, Northumberland. Rural Northumberland would benefit from collaboration between ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE and Cumbria) so that rural areas like much of Northumberland get better local news-coverage. (Photo courtesy of bobmcp @ Pixabay )

May 2021

Dear Readers

One of the problems that viewers in rural Northumberland- and indeed across North East England face- with their choice of Regional Television News is that both the two main News- providers cover much the same areas and same items of news.  Of course, the BBC1 North East and Cumbria version of Look North does cover Cumbria in output as well, about 15% of coverage, which does leave a bit less for North East England than is the case for ITV1 Tyne Tees Tonight – but there the differences end.

This is a situation unique to Britain- across the vast bulk of England and indeed all of Wales- the ITV1 Regional News for a location provides much the same news and geographic coverage as does the BBC1 Regional News- service for that same location. For example, in North West England BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports  cover almost exactly the same transmission areas, produces the same geographic mix and areas in news- output and covers much the same stories. In most of Yorkshire, the BBC1 Yorkshire version of Look North and ITV1 Calendar Tonight News cover the same geographic area and coverage. Across the country, there is duplication of Regional News programming with many areas, chiefly the urban areas near the centre of the transmission Region getting heavy news- coverage (and mainly about the same things) whilst rural areas on the fringes of the BBC1/ ITV1 Region get little coverage- and never get to hear about anything just beyond the transmission boundary (even quite a serious development).

This is certainly the case across North East England- BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV1 Tyne Tees Tonight will both cover the riot in Newcastle, the murder in Sunderland and Middlesbrough Football Club getting a new manager. Neither of the programmes will cover the fatal road crash on the A 68 at Jedburgh or a train derailment at Dunbar- even if that would be of more concern to viewers who live in Otterburn or Berwick-upon-Tweed, respectively. Instead, North Northumbrians have a choice of “News mainly about Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle” from ITV1 Tyne Tees or “News mainly about Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle- and a bit of Cumbria” from BBC1 North East/ Cumbria.

This duplication of resources spent on Regional Television represents a waste, particularly if some areas get two news- services that both cover the area extremely well, whilst rural areas at the fringes get next to no local coverage from either ITV1 or BBC1 with neither main Regional News- services telling these rural viewers about quite major events and happenings just over the transmission boundary.

The current situation, with both BBC1 North East/ Cumbria and ITV1 Tyne Tees majoring on the urban areas (just because that is where more people live) means that the rural north of the transmission areas for both (i.e., Northumberland) is poorly served and North Northumbrians never get to hear about quite serious happenings just over the Border into southern Scotland. To a lesser extent, viewers in rural County Durham and rural northern North Yorkshire also miss out on really local news, though viewers in these areas can find out major events across the border into Cumbria on BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria).

There is a solution to this problem and it’s called Collaboration: Rather than competing for the same viewers in urban areas, the programmers at ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria should come to an accommodation that does not increase costs for news -output across North East England- and which may infact reduce costs across both ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria- whilst at the same time help to ensure everyone in the Region has a Regional News- service that not only covers their communities well but provides coverage for everyone of serious happenings up to an hour’s drive or train- journey away (even if that means crossing the Scottish Border).

The best solution is one which recognises ITV’s dependence on private revenue streams whilst the BBC is funded by that well-known Tax on Televisions,  that every household in the country has to pay (which, as of 1st April 2021 is now £159 per annum per household). This solution involves ITV1 Tyne Tees majoring the urban areas- Tyneside, Teesside, and Wearside- and providing more of the Sports coverage: Since ITV1 Tyne Tees does not have to cover Cumbria they could cover the urban North East well and cater for the supporters of Newcastle United, Sunderland Associated Football Club and Middlesbrough Football Club- and in the Summer cover Durham County Cricket Club. Most people in the North East live in these urban areas and a lot of them love Sport and- with less competition from BBC1 Look North (North East/ Cumbria) the reliably high numbers of viewers will keep the Advertising revenues coming. Programmers at ITV1 Tyne Tees will be happy with that.

The BBC, funded as it is by the Television Licence fee, can- in return- (and indeed should) cover the cities rather less, cover less Sport and cover rural North Yorkshire, western County Durham, and Northumberland more. In addition, they should provide some overlap coverage to the Scottish Borders, Dumfriesshire  and East Lothian- for the benefit of viewers who live in Northumberland and North Cumbria. However, since Cumbrian viewers have the option of switching to ITV Border to get much more localised news about their county- and north of the Scottish Border, the priority must be to cater for Northumberland, rural County Durham, and rural North Yorkshire (where viewers don’t have that option) more. In the process, ITV Tyne Tees can become a repository for those viewers from Tyneside, Teesside, and Wearside who hate the Scots (because of the SNP and their stance on Brexit) so much- that they cannot stand any mention of happenings north of the Scottish Border, though fortunately that won’t be a majority of viewers because Northumbrians are fair and friendly!

The BBC, governed as it is by the BBC Charter, and instructed to provide relevant news for all parts of the United Kingdom will be safe-guarding its own future (and protecting itself from politicians agitating for the end of the Television Licence) would do well to provide a service that covers those areas not covered well by the ITV1 Regional news services. Viewers in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Otterburn or Wooler have strong links across the Scottish border and northern Northumberland has its own distinct communities well to the north of the urban North East of England- it would do programmers at BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) well to recognise this.

Collaboration between BBC1 North East/ Cumbria and ITV Tyne Tees (and indeed ITV1 Border) will also save money if the Regional news- services pool resources in terms of reporting on major happenings across the North East of England, Cumbria, and southern Scotland. Currently, there is the situation whereby if there is a riot in Newcastle both BBC North East/ Cumbria and ITV1 Tyne Tees each send a news- reporter to gather the information, speak to by-standers about what has happened, etc. This is a waste of resources across two broadcast networks. Instead, as part of the Collaboration between ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC1 North East Cumbria there should be an agreement that ITV1 Tyne Tees sends its reporters to news-gather in the urban areas of Tyneside, Teesside, and Wearside, whilst BBC1 North East/ Cumbria reporters do County Durham, Northumberland, and North Yorkshire- and liaise with ITV1 Border for news-reports about Cumbria and southern Scotland. The Regional Programmers should then edit the news- items each sources- and then share the news- items with the other Regional Television networks as appropriate.

If ITV1 Tyne-Tees, ITV1 Border and BBC1 North East/ Cumbria can share the source- material of each other in this way and share (as appropriate) this would deliver significant cost- savings in terms of reporters, editorial and travel-times to far- flung destinations across the North East, Cumbria, and southern Scotland. It is not inconceivable that both ITV.Plc and the BBC would have better balance sheets and profits if they did this for all their Television Regions across the United Kingdom. All viewers of Regional Television will be happier too, as no-one would have to suffer a largely- irrelevant Regional News- service about distant cities whilst not getting to know about major happenings just across transmission boundaries. Certainly, if the above accommodation could be reached between ITV1 Tyne Tees and BBC North East/ Cumbria viewers in Northumberland and rural County Durham would enjoy a more relevant local Regional News- service.

However, none of this will happen unless you, the viewers of Regional Television in Northumberland and the northern North East of England write to the Regional Television Programme- providers and complain, suggesting collaboration between the Regional News services might be the way forward so that everyone in the Region is happy with the amount of coverage. Do write, don’t send an e-mail as a letter will carry more weight and be more likely to get noticed. The Regional Television News- Providers for ITV Tyne-Tees, ITV Border and BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) are:

ITV1 Tyne Tees/ ITV Border

Michaela Byrne, Head of News, ITV Tyne Tees and Border,

Television House,  The Watermark,  GATESHEAD.  NE11 9SZ.

BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria)

Mr. Jon Roberts, Assistant Editor,  BBC North East and Cumbria,

Broadcasting Centre,  Barrack Road,  NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE.

NE99 2NE.

Geographically- appropriate Regional Television News in Northumberland

9th March 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd January 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th December 2020

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31st October 2020

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good folk of Berwick-upon Tweed must be wondering whether they (or, should that be ITV) made the right move back in 2006 when they were transferred from the ITV Border (Scotland) transmission area to ITV Tyne Tees because the furthest north the North East Regional news has come (Both on BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees has been a nine-year old girl from Blyth (still 60 miles south of Berwick) doing litter- picking! At least Blyth is in Northumberland, but hardly local to the good folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Cornhill-on-Tweed or Wooler. In any case, Blyth is in the urban south-east of the county, a northwards extension of Tyneside, where residents have concerns and worries that are a million miles from those of farmers and villages who live up along the Scottish Border.

It is certainly high time that the BBC and ITV Regional news- programmers in the North East rectified this problem because a Regional News service is not providing effective localised coverage for all its viewers if 200,000 folk (the population of rural west and northern Northumberland) and half of the geographical area of North East England gets no coverage for days on end. For days, now, the nearest “local news” for viewers in places like Byrness, Seahouses, Norham and Falstone has been an hour’s drive away or further.

It is also unacceptable that there is not an overlap zone for coverage into the Scottish Borders, in view of the strong links between Northumberland and southern Scotland. Both Regional broadcasters for the North East of England provide overlap coverage southwards across North Yorkshire for the benefit of their northern North Yorkshire and Teesside viewers, there should also be overlap northwards for the benefit of North Northumbrian viewers who travel into the Scottish Borders for days out, to visit relatives and (occasionally) to go shopping. There have been a couple of fatal road accidents and the A68 collapsing in a land-slip in the Scottish Borders during the summer- not one mention from BBC Look North or ITV Tyne Tees.

Virtually nothing specific on Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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