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!
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!
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 email@example.com (the main ITV1 News Tyne Tees presenters are Amy Lea and Ian Payne) and you can email BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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:
North West England, North Wales and Isle of Man
Large Northern England Region including northern Cumbria, NE England, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
Central England (both East and West Midlands)
South West England, South Wales and Channel Islands
Eastern England including East Anglia, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Bedfordshire
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!!
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 email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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: email@example.com, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.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.
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!
North Northumbrian viewers of Regional Television would be best- served by a Regional and Local News- service that covers Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, with some overlap coverage south to cover Tyneside, Wearside, and County Durham, some overlap west to cover Carlisle and North Cumbria and overlap northwards to cover the East and West Lothian areas of Scotland and as far north as Edinburgh.
Alas, such a localised news- service does not exist: The main reason why the main Regional News- broadcasters- both ITV.Plc and the BBC assert that they cannot provide more localised, relevant Regional Television for areas like northern Northumberland is that they cannot afford it. But is that acceptable in view of the fact that our national and Regional News- broadcasters really need to inform folk of what is happening locally, so that viewers can make informed choices to stay safe, find local work, travel (and avoid traffic jams) or to visit the best beautiful rural scenery less than an hour’s travel- time away? This Website asserts that it isn’t and that good quality, timely and relevant Local and Regional News- provision is as much of a Public Service as libraries, waste-collection services, and reliable public transport in rural areas.
To that end, good local and Regional News- provision should be funded as if though it were a Public Service, not left 100% to market- forces. However, neither Regional nor Local News can be funded by the Government because of the certainty that the Regional News- providers would be pressurised to conform to the Political views of their paymasters. This does happen with the BBC, because politicians in Parliament can threaten to remove TV License funding if the BBC is perceived as “Biased against the Government”: Thus, it is important that Regional and Local Television is funded privately- by advertising, product-placement, sponsorship, affordable subscriptions, and even local lotteries- if combined- are all legitimate sources of funding.
So how can Regional Television be funded? None of the main broadcasters providing it will do so if left entirely to their own judgement to provide good- quality local and timely news relevant to viewers in every significant part of the United Kingdom. Funding from the Public Purse with tax-payers paying for it is out of the question if we want impartial news- coverage where Regional News Programmers feel free to report whatever is relevant to their viewers without fear or favour regarding the Party of Government (whether National or Local Government, Conservative or Labour or (in Scotland) the Scottish National Party).
Now good quality Regional News Programming with half- hour programmes on weeknights and other regular shorter bulletins in mornings, at lunchtime and weekends costs at least £5 million annually. So, for every county in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and with special news-services for the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Orkney and Shetland Isles and Scottish Western Isles will cost at least £500 million annually: Two questions about this sum of money- Firstly can this money be raised privately? And (if so) can ITV.Plc and/or the BBC be made to spend it on Regional Television?
It is a fact that OFCOM require ITV.Plc and (in Scotland) also STV.Plc to produce so many hours (typically two, and in the case of ITV Border, three hours) of Regional/ Local News- Programming for all parts of the UK ( more details here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/106545/PSB-Nations-and-Regions-Compliance-Report-2017.pdf). And they provide it- or they are threatened with sanctions including fines or even the possible loss of their Public Service Broadcast (PSB) licences. The BBC Charter governs the amount of Regional News output for each BBC1 Region and stipulates that it must be timely, high-quality, and relevant news for all parts of the United Kingdom.
The situation with Scottish Television (STV) providing (in effect) four separate Regional Television News-services for the Glasgow and western Scotland, Edinburgh and eastern Scotland, Dundee and NE Scotland and Aberdeen/ Inverness and northern Scotland- whilst ITV1 Border covers southern Scotland shows that independent television with private funding- streams only can provide four or five Regional TV News services for a population of just 5.47 million people (population of Scotland in 2020- https://www.statista.com/statistics/367788/population-of-scotland/ ). So, it is certainly possible for every distinct geographical area with a population just over one million people to have their own dedicated Regional TV News service without recourse to tax-payer cash or even that famous Tax on Televisions called the TV License fee!
It is clear, however that neither BBC1 nor ITV.Plc would provide dedicated, high-quality Regional and Local News- services without OFCOM and the Sword of Damocles hanging over them, threatening to fine them if they did not provide good high- quality Regional News services. That said, unless either is able to raise £500 million a year to fund Local and Regional TV for each county then, even with their backs against the wall like this they would not be able to provide it.
Then there is the fact that both the BBC and ITV.Plc provide Regional news services that are near- duplicate services across large part of the UK- including in Wales, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. This is definitely true in the North East of England where both ITV1 News Tyne Tees and BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) cover a similar transmission area stretching from the Scottish Border to York, though BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) does cover northern Cumbria too (in practice, the amount of coverage of Cumbria means that similar amounts of coverage of different parts of North East England are the same for both Regional News services that serve North East England. Both cover the urban areas of Tyneside, Teesside, and Wearside extensively, yet both sparsely cover rural Northumberland and rural North Yorkshire. I’m all for choice, but the choices should complement rather than duplicate Regional News coverage in an area.
For example, a viewer in Otterburn, Northumberland, close to the Scottish Border should get a choice of a Regional News- service covering North East England because folk living there do commute to Newcastle or Sunderland for work, have family living there, etc. but that should be complemented by a Northumberland/ Scottish Borders News service- so that viewers get to find out what is happening locally- but also in the other direction to them.
In the south of the BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) and ITV1 Tyne Tees transmission areas is North Yorkshire- the largest county in England. The extreme south of North Yorkshire is served by the Leeds or Hull- based versions of BBC1 Look North and by ITV1 Calendar (Yorkshire) News programming. Neither of these Regional News- services, whether Yorkshire- based or North East- based, provide more than about 15% coverage of the county. For someone living near Masham, Scarborough or Hawes, which ever Regional news- service one uses perhaps 25% of the coverage gets within an hour’s drive of one’s community and even less is within 30 minutes’ drive- which is truly appalling. Thus, the county of North Yorkshire needs its own bespoke Regional Television News service with 90% coverage of the county and the remaining 10% being overlap of significant happenings a bit further afield- up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north, westwards as far as a line running from Morecambe to Keswick and southwards as far as Sheffield.
The fact that the BBC is effectively funded via taxation means there should be a much greater onus on it to provide those high- quality News services that a commercial organisation (like ITV.Plc) cannot afford to provide. However, despite this, for northern Northumberland it is ITV1 Border’s Lookaround that provides more coverage of northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (though, sadly, viewers in Northumberland are stuck with ITV1 News Tyne Tees instead). The BBC itself does not have a bespoke TV Region for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders at all and neither ITV.Plc nor the BBC have a bespoke Regional TV programming for North Yorkshire! That is an argument for scrapping the TV Licence fee altogether.
However, I start with the premise that a purely commercial organisation left to its own devices would not provide timely, relevant, and high- quality local news. The TV License fee has a role, but the BBC should be able to offer subscription services and have product placements and lotteries, too to raise more money. Then the TV License fee can then be reduced- to (say) £100 a year with additional legal safeguards built in to prevent political interference, which means a new TV Licence Safeguarding and Impartiality Bill passed through Parliament (i.e., that it cannot be increased or decreased without the approval of 80% of the House of Commons and that former Councillors, Mayors or MP’s standing for a Political Party cannot be appointed to news/ editorial positions within the BBC). It is vital to reduce financial influences that could pressurise the BBC from being biased politically but it is vital to ensure that it can raise additional funds commensurate with its special requirements.
Programmes like films, comedies, soaps, and sports programming could be provided on a commercial basis, so if the License fee were just £100 per household that would still raise £1.5 billion annually even if just 60% of households paid it. This would provide the funds for high-quality documentaries, National News and Regional News (including BBC Local Radio). BBC1 costs just over £1.1 billion, BBC Local Radio costs £150 million and BBC online costs just over £200 million. Total cost about £1.5 billion. However, a considerable proportion of programming on BBC 1 (like East Enders) is not what the BBC primarily for- and it should make up the shortfall with private revenue streams like merchandising and product- placement. Assuming that 25% of the material on BBC 1 is not high- quality news, documentaries, etc. (but that it costs half as much) that’s still £137 million for BBC1- enough to run 27 additional Regional TV News- services (costing £5 million each) to provide more geographic- appropriate Regional coverage for areas like rural Northumberland/Scottish Borders and another news- service specifically for North Yorkshire. It would then also be possible to have separate Regional programming for other distinct large areas that fall between the cracks in Regional TV coverage like North Wales, North Lancashire/ South Cumbria, a separate news- service for the small country that is the Isle of Man and additional bespoke Regional News for the Highlands and Islands of northern Scotland: All these are major areas suffering a lack of bespoke Regional News programming today.
Indeed, with a new funding model and new stipulated BBC1 Regions along with new stipulations for ITV1 Regions across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland there could- in effect- be one local TV service for each county. If there is the will in Government, and with OFCOM and the co-operation of both ITV.Plc and the BBC it is financially possible. In 2021 Regional Television is not as constrained by transmission masts/ coverage as programming can be provided digitally and via Internet/ local broadband connections too (and broadband is getting faster and more reliable all the time).
I reiterate the importance of good- quality, timely and localised Regional and Local News as a vital Public-service. To that end, those broadcasting Regional News, those overseeing them (like OFCOM), and the Government (which makes policy) have a collective duty to see to it that it is provided and that it is relevant for wherever one lives in the United Kingdom. That includes Northumberland and North Yorkshire.
Good Regional News-coverage cannot be left purely to Market forces -although the fact that people can choose whichever TV Region is appropriate to them means that each Regional News provider will be under pressure to provide relevant geographic- appropriate all- round Local News coverage for all their viewers: However, with the right regulatory framework much more localised Regional News can be provided with a TV Licence fee (with broadcast organisations much better- protected from political coercion with stronger legal protections of this source of public funds) and a mix of Private revenue- streams.
In the meantime, viewers living in rural Northumberland or in rural North Yorkshire would do well to write to BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) (email firstname.lastname@example.org) and ITV1 Tyne Tees (email email@example.com) in order to explain that Regional TV coverage is not especially geographic- appropriate for their community. If you live in rural Northumberland you could explain that there are alternatives like You tube- based Hexham TV (website here: https://hexhamtv.com/), and that ITV1 Border (Scotland) (which one can get via Sky TV or off the Internet if the sinal from this Regional programming cannot be accessed) would provide more coverage of northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. North Yorkshire viewers can draw attention to That’s TV North Yorkshire, which can be found on Freeview channel 7 at 6.pm on week-days.
Mere complaints do little to change Regional TV programming, but complaining whilst illustrating viable alternatives are available brings the full power of market- forces to the Regional News- programmers, i.e., that they must improve the service they offer for their viewers or lose custom.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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:
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!
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. For ITV Tyne Tees write to email@example.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).
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.