On the 26th November 2021, the evening after this picture was taken in rural south-west Northumberland, communities in areas covered by those shown in the above picture- that is the Tyne Valley and looking north across western rural Northumberland to the Scottish Border were without power as violent storms battered the North East of England and eastern Scotland. Viewers in these areas could not see the Regional News on BBC Look North or ITV1 News Tyne Tees, let alone see a Regional News- service providing good coverage of their area. Many folk living in these areas would remain without power until the beginning of December 2021.
The response of local emergency services- and Northern Powergrid- in helping get power to those affected was commendable, but with almost 100,000 homes in the North East of England- mainly in rural Northumberland and rural County Durham- not getting power for three, four, up to six days the question has to be asked “Why were the Army not drafted in?”. Why was there not a national response to so many folk in rural areas losing power- and being without during the coldest winter weather so far this year (it went down to -8˚C in the North Pennines overnight 27th/28th November with six inches of lying snow). The British Army did arrive after thousands of folk had been shivering for over four days, they brought in generators and provided hot food for local folk (details here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-59473400).
However, affected households were also cut off from all contact with the outside world. People would not have known where road congestion was, whether roads were passable (this being after the first real snowfalls of winter fell) or, indeed, what was happening in their electric- cut communities. The premise of this website is that folk in rural Northumberland require a reliable news-service that keeps them up to date in what is happening where they live and in other places they are liable to frequent: A Regional Television News-service is, arguably, better than none at all. A tip for readers, for if they are ever in such a situation again whereby they have no electricity, is to buy a radio operatable with batteries, then find your local radio stations on it. BBC Radio Newcastle covers Tyneside and Northumberland, (it’s mostly Tyneside news) but (hopefully) if large parts of rural Northumberland are without power you will be told about it. BBC Radio Newcastle can be found on 95.4 FM, 96 FM, 103.7 FM, 104.4FM (whichever one is best will depend on where you live in Northumberland) and also you can get it on 1458 AM. If you wish to find out what is happening across the Border into the Scottish Borders then Radio Borders can be found on 102.3 FM near Berwick upon Tweed and 96.8 FM if you live in the North Tyne- near Bellingham or Otterburn (though the Cheviots might interfere with the signal as it is transmitted from Selkirk).
However, the best defence against getting cut-off from the outside world (and much else besides!) in the event of a power- blackout is to invest in a generator, if you have the means to buy one. If you do not have the technical expertise to install a generator a local electrician will be able to assist: The £4,000 cost of a generator that will enable you to have light, keep warm and watch the local news plus £500 for an electrician to install it will be worth it for your peace of mind. It will probably increase the value of your home by more than this outlay. You do not know when the next big black-out will come!
However, even for those not hit by black-outs, the period from 26th November through to the start of December has not exactly been a great one for great Regional TV for rural Northumberland, either from BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees.
Of news that folk in northern and north-west Northumberland might have wanted to know about from the 26th of November through to today, but were not informed about either by BBC1 Look North or ITV1 News Tyne Tees there has been a great deal- mainly weather-related that could have had major impacts on their lives. These happenings include:
School-children in Berwick upon Tweed have missed a considerable amount of education following serious storm-damage to two schools in the town.
Snow and high winds closed the A68 at Carter Bar and travel north of Newcastle on the A1 (or by train) from 26th through 27th November was impossible (this only got a very brief mention). This will have had an enormous impact on people living in mid or northern Northumberland who may have had to travel from a job in Tyneside, yet there seems to have been little mention of this. And what of folk in Northumberland without a car who might have needed to travel to relatives with electricity if they had lost theirs? If no buses and trains were running in northern Northumberland, folk would have remained restricted to their cold dark homes.
More than 200 seal pups were killed by Storm Arwen on the North Sea coast at St Abbs Head- just ten miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Unfortunately, because it was over the Scottish Border neither BBC1 Look North nor ITV1 News Tyne Tees touched it.
No mention that the main railway line between Carlisle and Newcastle was closed on 26th through 27th November due to Storm Arwen. This is well within the north of BBC1 NE/ Cumbria and ITV1 Tyne Tees transmission areas, so no excuse at all there! This will have directly affected folk in towns like Hexham and Haltwhistle!
The A7 in the Scottish Borders- between Hawick and Selkirk- was closed due to flooding on 26th November. No mention for the folk in north-west Northumberland who might have had reason to travel that way, since neither of the two North East- based Regional TV News outlets ever overlap into the Scottish Borders for any reason!
All these happenings were quite significant for folk living in Northumberland, shut schools, roads, and railway lines with the potential to affect tens of thousands of North Northumbrian residents. If the Regional TV News services with authority for providing news as relevant to Northumberland communities cannot or won’t cover such significant happenings they are failing in their duties. As for rural communities that lose power in storms- and are four or more days, they lose all news coverage and much else besides. If climate change means more powerful winter storms in future, remote northern communities and households would be advised to invest in generators, or (if that is unaffordable) battery-powered radios (with a supply of batteries), so that folk can remain informed. However, local authorities must be quicker to get the Army in to supply generators (and the Government must support such endeavours), so that rural households are not left freezing, without power and cut off from all news of the outside world for more than a couple of days!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (the main ITV1 News Tyne Tees presenters are Amy Lea and Ian Payne) and you can email BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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: email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com) and ITV1 Tyne Tees (email firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.