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

23rd February 2022

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport,

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

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

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

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

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

2nd October 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Regional News- Service for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders

July 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: annemarie.trevelyan.mp@parliament.uk

Hexham:  Right Hon. Sir Guy Opperman, MP.

Email:  guy.opperman@parliament.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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