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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtually nothing specific on Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

Dear Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/).