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

8th May 2022

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd February 2022

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport,

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

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

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

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.

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

14th August 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Regional News- Service for Northumberland and the Scottish Borders

July 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: annemarie.trevelyan.mp@parliament.uk

Hexham:  Right Hon. Sir Guy Opperman, MP.

Email:  guy.opperman@parliament.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good- quality timely Regional News for rural Northumberland and North Yorkshire is actually a vital Public Service.

Dear Readers

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 look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk) and ITV1 Tyne Tees (email amyandian@itv.com)  in order to explain that Regional TV coverage is not especially geographic- appropriate for their community. If you live in rural Northumberland you could explain that there are alternatives like You tube- based Hexham TV (website here: https://hexhamtv.com/), and that ITV1 Border (Scotland) (which one can get via Sky TV or off the Internet if the sinal from this Regional programming cannot be accessed) would provide more coverage of northern Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. North Yorkshire viewers can draw attention to That’s TV North Yorkshire, which can be found on Freeview channel 7 at 6.pm on week-days.

Mere complaints do little to change Regional TV programming, but complaining whilst illustrating viable alternatives are available brings the full power of market- forces to the Regional News- programmers, i.e., that they must improve the service they offer for their viewers or lose custom.                           

Geographically- appropriate Regional Television News in Northumberland

9th March 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd January 2021

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15th September 2020: A New Site to focus on Regional Television coverage for the northern North East of England

Dear Readers

I already have a website that draws attention to the deficiencies in Regional Television for viewers of BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports who live in South Cumbria and northern Lancashire who do not get coverage of the northern half of North West England (i.e. Cumbria). This can be found at https://northwestisnorthwest.org/: Viewers in northern Lancashire and much of South Cumbria live just a bit too far south to receive an excellent signal from ITV Border (which covers Cumbria extremely well) and thus they have a choice between BBC North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports, both of which will often not even mention Cumbria for a week, and they will often fail to cover anything north of Preston in their respective evening bulletins. Moreover, these programmes never cover even serious matters in northern Cumbria for the benefit of their viewers in the south of Cumbria: Thus not all of North West England is covered in Regional News programmes that say they cover North West England and the Isle of Man. I have therefore set up a Website which I am making the focal point for a Campaign to get the BBC and ITV in the North West to provide better local (and all- round) coverage for (potentially one million) viewers who live in a more northerly part of North West England who nevertheless suffer a poor North West Regional news-service.

However, this new Website is dedicated to viewers who live across the North Pennines and who also live in a rural county that extends well to the north of the urban areas of North East England- namely Northumberland. Since northernmost Northumberland was transferred from ITV Border to the ITV Tyne-Tees Region all of Northumberland now has a choice between ITV Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (the North East/ Cumbria version). Both these North East based Regional News services cover Northumberland poorly- one item out of ten news- items will be about rural North, West and Central Northumberland on a good night and there will be nothing north of Tyneside on a poor night. For the good folk of Berwick-upon-Tweed it means that “The News Where You Are”, as the BBC main news-presenter likes to say is sixty or more miles away (and often 100 or more miles away if its something about Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire- or West Cumbria). This is not acceptable for a Regional News- service that purports to serve everyone in North East England.

Rural northern Northumbrians also have strong links with communities across the Border into Scotland- particularly the Scottish Borders: The fact that Berwick Rangers is part of the Scottish Lowland Football League (and were part of the Scottish Professional Football League until last year) is one example of the cross- border ties. Edinburgh is less than an hour away from Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. However, this is not at all recognised by ITV Tyne Tees (the link-up with ITV Border has now been severed, which is actually good for folk living in northern Cumbria and southern Scotland who now get much more localised coverage) and not at all by BBC North East/ Cumbria programmers: Neither of the North-East based Regional News services provide any overlap coverage northwards into the Scottish Borders- which they should so that folk living at the northern margins of the transmission area receive more all-round coverage. This is therefore something that will be covered in posts on this Website and which will feature in the campaign to get Regional Television improved for viewers in Northumberland, so that they not only get more localised news- coverage of their communities but also a better perception of all-round local coverage too.

BBC Look North (North East and Cumbria) must indeed (as the name of the Regional News- programme suggests) Look North- to the often- neglected large rural hinterlands of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders: Hence the name of the Website (https://looknorthmustlooknorth.org/).