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!