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

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/).

Massive sink-hole opens up underneath the A68 in the Scottish Borders. Not the slightest mention on ITV Tyne Tees News or BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria).

This article was originally posted on http://www.northwestisnorthwest.org on 12th August 2020

Viewers of Regional Television in the northern half of North East England were short- changed by both BBC Look North (North East) and ITV Tyne Tees: Lots of coverage of Tyneside, Sunderland and even Darlington (in southern county Durham) but nothing about a serious incident pertaining to anyone who lives north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who might be thinking of travelling north into the Scottish Borders for a trip out. It is an apt demonstration of the shortfalls of Regional News stopping at northern transmission boundaries and not having some overlap north of these transmission boundaries.

AMEY
THE A68 IS A MAJOR TRUNK ROAD BETWEEN NORTH EAST ENGLAND, THE SCOTTISH BORDERS AND EDINBURGH BUT THIS WAS THE SCENE NEAR THE VILLAGE OF FALA IN THE SCOTTISH BORDERS AFTER THUNDERSTORMS AND TORRENTIAL RAIN AFFECTED THE SCOTTISH BORDERS OVERNIGHT. NOT THE TINIEST MENTION, OF THIS POTENTIAL FOR MAJOR TRAVEL DISRUPTION FOR ANYONE LIVING NORTH OF NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, WAS HEARD ON ANY REGIONAL NEWS- PROGRAMMING FOR THE NORTH EAST OF ENGLAND.

There were thunderstorms and localised torrential rain in the Scottish Borders overnight and this led to localised subsidence of saturated land. In one instance, a flooded embankment subsided and it led to the formation a huge sink-hole in the A68 trunk road near the village of Fala, some 15 miles south of Edinburgh (more details here: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2020-08-12/severe-weather-causes-road-to-collapse-near-fala): Not only did this mean travel along the A68 was severely disrupted, but (potentially) for anyone not informed about it travelling along the A68, the consequence could have been tragic. Indeed, some 130 miles further north near the small town of Stonehaven, in Aberdeenshire (in north-east Scotland) a landslip on an embankment did result in tragedy as it caused a train to derail with the consequence of three people losing their lives (two of which were the train- driver and the conductor). Six other people were seriously injured. This is a devastating tragedy for those who lost their lives, and for their grieving families (more on this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-53751678).

The incident on the A68, where a huge sink-hole appeared across the A68, was covered by ITV Border, and it was certainly relevant to anyone on the move in southern Scotland. The incident near Stonehaven in north-east Scotland was tragic, but being well over 170 miles north of the most northern part of Northumberland would have no salience with people living in (say) Berwick-upon-Tweed unless they were related to anyone likely to be using the 06.38 am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street train that derailed at around 9.30 am. What this incident does illustrate is the potential for heavy rain on roads and railways to have catastrophic consequences for anyone living in (and likely to travel to) the area. The incident near Fala, on the A68, led to the Police closing the road but it is the risk to life and limb for anyone travelling at speed during (or following) torrential rain that is an additional important issue here.

Most people will travel up to an hour on the train (or by road) on a day out, maybe several times in a year- be that a country drive or to visit relatives or go to a scenic spot for a walk. I recently drove the 42 miles from my home so that my brother could return his hire- car to Newcastle Airport, then I drove him 42 miles back to my home near Alston in the North Pennines. These are the sorts of trips most folk would make several times in a year.

It follows, therefore, that good Local and Regional News programming will not only provide their viewers with the most relevant and local news- content as possible (i.e. Immediately Local) but there would also be some coverage of significant events, especially those that they need to be warned about, up to an hour’s drive away from all viewers. That means BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees News providing some overlap coverage (about ten percent of all news coverage) of significant events up to an hour’s drive (or train journey) beyond their the programme transmission- areas (where the Regional news programming can actually be seen).

People living in north and northwest Northumberland are within an hour’s drive of much of the Scottish Borders and the A68 is the main trunk road connecting the North East to the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh: The car-sized sink-hole dissecting the A68 near Fala should have made the North East Regional News- accompanied by a warning for people to avoid the area. More seriously, torrential rain causes sink-holes and mud-slides, potentially leading to chasms forming under busy roads and damaged railway lines- with the potential for disaster: The next time torrential rain (or, in winter, heavy snowfalls) is forecast as likely in the Scottish Borders or indeed in Dumfries and Galloway, Carol Malia would do well to warn viewers of BBC Look North (i.e. those in Northumberland and North Cumbria who may travel to such areas for work or to visit relatives for a day) not to travel, find another route or just take extreme care.

However, this evening we had the odd situation whereby Cumbrian viewers of ITV Border’s Lookaround news- programme (and who all live more than an hour’s drive and over 75 miles from Fala) were warned about this sink-hole dissecting the A68 whereas northern Northumberland viewers of Regional Television (who can no longer get ITV Border, and who have to choose between ITV Tyne Tees or BBC Look North (North East)), and who live within an hour’s drive of Fala and the A68 sink-hole received not the tiniest mention about it! This is not acceptable.