This article was originally published on my website North West is North West (https://northwestisnorthwest.org/) on 19th August 2020
I have made the point in recent posts that viewers of Regional Television in northern parts of Britain (i.e. Scotland, North West and North East England) like their news to cover some places further to the north of them but not so much further to the south of them: For example, viewers in Cumbria like some news about southern Scotland but are not happy to get news about Manchester or Liverpool- because this enhances their “Sense of Northernness”. To some extent, the higher the northern latitudes the news content is about the happier they are. But it’s a bit more than that.
Viewers of Regional Television in northern Britain do not just want a Regional News- Programme that gives them the news about their area: They also want their Regional News Programming to offer features that arouse real interest that not only enhances their “Northern superiority” compared to places well to the south of them but which offers a real sense of mystique and excitement with regards to their relative geographical location. Against that, of course, folk who live in (say) North East England and well away from the cities will also want their area covered well, with at least 20% of the news covered being within 25 miles (or half an hour’s drive) of where they live: However, a successful Regional Programme will have regular features and mini-documentaries that really enthuse the viewers.
Local Sports teams, and features like beautiful tourist attractions and countryside will bring some draw- though a Regional News- programme should not have too much Sport as most folk watch the Regional News to get news about their area. Coverage of major football teams can be found on Sky Sports and a whole host of other Sports Channels in 2020, sufficient to satisfy those that want to pursue it. Northern Regional News Programming needs to offer something that is unique to “The North” that cannot be found in other media. That something is related to the fact that places further north and nearer the Arctic have colder climates, have colder weather and this has unique effects on the landscape not readily found in the Midlands, Wales and southern regions of England- and that something is the presence of ice and snow on parts of the landscape in Northern Britain at times of the year when it is rarely (if ever) found in the Midlands and South.
The presence of ice and snow on a northern mountain on a sunny May morning (for instance) brings a unique sparkling beauty to the area- and a clear reminder like no other that the area is closer to the Arctic than London or Birmingham and thus has a colder, tougher climate to match its northerly location. If there are regular features related to this on BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria), BBC North West Tonight, ITV Tyne Tees or ITV Granada it would draw an audience more enthused with the evening bulletins than they are. Tied in with this is the desire of northern viewers to see news or features that enhance their “Northernness” by being about locations up to an hour to the north of them. So what could these features be?
BBC Look North (or ITV Tyne Tees) in the North East of England could have a feature on “The Last Cheviot Snow-Patch at the Top of Bizzle Burn” (730 metres above sea- level) on the north-east side of The Cheviot (summit 815 metres above sea- level), the highest mountain in the Cheviots. In most years, there will be patches of snow lingering until the end of April there. Both BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and BBC North West Tonight could do a feature on “The Lingering Snows of Helvellyn”- patches of snow can be found on the north-facing slopes of this Lake District Mountain (which rises to 948 metres’ elevation) until may in most years- and a showery north-westerly air-stream in late April or early May (common in most springs) will often put a covering of gleaming white snow on the highest mountains in the Lake District, Cross Fell in the North Pennines or on the summit of The Cheviot itself.
In the summer months it is almost certain that one would not find any lingering snow-patches on the north-east side of The Cheviot or the north side of Helvellyn- but in the Cairngorms of North East Scotland, particularly on those mountains above 1,200 metres, there can be found patches of snow lasting until August. There is a gully on the north side of a mountain called Braeriach (summit 1,296 above sea- level), the gully is called Garbh Coire Mor and commonly has the most persistent snow found anywhere in the British Isles (snow has only completely disappeared from Garbh Coire Mor six times in the last century). Programmers for BBC Look North, covering North East England and northern Cumbria could do a piece on Garbh Coire Mor still filled with snow in August to point out that Newcastle-upon-Tyne is closer to This Icy Spectacle in high summer than the Houses of Parliament- combining a political fact with a stark geographical fact. This is one of those occasions when providing news from more than an hour’s drive to the north of the BBC Region would be justified (perhaps once every few weeks): It is about injecting into viewers a sense of real amazement at some hitherto little-known facts that truly “Big-up” their sense of “Northernness”!
BBC North West could provide pictures from some deep- frost-hollows in and just to the north of their transmission area in summer and early autumn. The village of Shap, in Cumbria lies in just such a frost- hollow as does nearby Kirkby Stephen in the upper Eden Valley. A clear summer night following a spell of cool westerly winds (not unusual in July or August) will see the air- temperature fall to around 6˚C, with localised mist and even a slight ground-frost whitening the grass at dawn. This, too, is about bringing a “Wow!” factor to the Regional News bulletins for viewers in North West England.
During the winter (even during a mild winter like 2019-2020), snow will blanket the Lake District Fells, the high fells of the North Pennines and the Cheviots on a regular basis. Views and images of the icy scenes provide viewers with a vivid and dramatic reminder of why their Region is different from those further south- all with their own periods of unique icy beauty not found in places to the south of the Region!
In June, near the summer solstice, half-light and sunset-like conditions can be found at midnight in Cumbria and Northumberland during dry clear weather- such light conditions are not observed at midnight in the southern half of the United Kingdom- and if Paul Mooney, the BBC Look North weather-presenter produced a “View North across Kielder Reservoir at Midnight” showing the red twilight to the north reflected in the water, that would be another unique “Wow!” for the viewers. Light summer nights are a uniquely Northern feature of nature defined largely by latitude- they should have a place in the Northern Regional Television bulletins as a means of enhancing the uniqueness of northern Regional News programming.