This Website highlights the shortage of regional news- coverage of northern parts of North East England on BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) as well as the shortage of coverage of Cumbria on BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada. Carol Malia’s bulletin this evening (22nd July) is a case in point, although rural Northumberland did get two items of news- coverage (a good night for Northumberland’s viewers of Regional Television). There was news from Gateshead, news from Harrogate (in southern North Yorkshire) and a major piece on Acorns- a centre helping children and women who are victims of domestic violence based in North Tyneside- all Coronavirus Lockdown related.
The two news- items on rural Northumberland featured the eradication of poisonous Himalayan Balsam on the banks of the River Tyne- at Warden (near Hexham) and there was a piece about Corbridge in the context of a North East- based crime writer Ann Cleese: There was not actually any coverage of central and northern rural Northumberland- the nearest the so- called “Local News” (the BBC likes to call it “The news Where You Are”) came to Berwick- upon- Tweed was indeed North Tyneside- some sixty miles away. And, of course, folk living in northernmost Northumberland got to hear of nothing within an hour’s drive on the Scottish side of the border. There was, for instance, a fatal road accident on the A708 between Moffat and Selkirk in southern Scotland where a motorcyclist collided with an Audi Q2 near a Nature Reserve called Grey Mares Tail (https://t.co/Gt3OVQJ4Ei?amp=1). This location in southern Scotland is just over 50 miles west of the town Cornhill-on-Tweed in northern Northumberland and it is (arguably) close enough for folk to drive to for a nice day out. It is therefore conceivable that, if there is a serious road- crash in that area, someone from Northumberland might be involved- so it becomes a public interest matter for people living in parts of northern Northumberland.
The effectiveness in provision of good all- round localised Regional News coverage for places at the most distant margins of the transmission area of a BBC or ITV Region is a subject that this Website returns to regularly when discussing the merits of Regional Television. That is because the viewers of the Regional Programming who live in such areas furthest from the major centres of population get news- coverage that is largely irrelevant to their day- to- day lives whilst some local news that would be of much more interest to them (which may be just beyond the transmission boundary of their TV Region) does not get covered at all.
Currently, BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) covers a massive area and, notwithstanding that only just over three million folk live within the confines of the transmission area, the fact that it covers an area stretching from Ripon (in central North Yorkshire) to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and from Teesside to St Bees Head (in West Cumbria) means that the Regional News cannot provide a satisfactory level of local coverage across the entire area. It would certainly help if Cumbria was part of a new BBC North West Region covering Cumbria, Lancashire and the Isle of Man only, but even ITV Tyne Tees, which does not cover Cumbria, has a lot of competing demands to provide coverage for North Yorkshire, Teesside, County Durham, Tyneside and Wearside- as well as Northumberland.
The solution really is for areas north of Newcastle- upon- Tyne to have an opt-out in the Regional News programming. This would last 15 minutes and provide highly localised news for rural Northumberland and north-east Cumbria (i.e. northeast of Carlisle)- with some overlap into southern Scotland. It could be broadcast from specially-adapted studios at Alnwick or Berwick-upon-Tweed and transmitted by the Chatton, Berwick and Haltwhistle transmitters. The BBC must find the money to do this, perhaps by freezing some of the pay of their highly-paid managers and directors.
In the meantime, a commitment to better coverage of northern Northumberland (with overlap into the Scottish Borders) could be provided by shaving just a minute off the Sport coverage -and squeezing a couple of two- minute reports about rural Northumberland and the Borders into BBC Look North’s main bulletins. This will go a considerable distance to engaging with a large rural area (with a population exceeding the Channel Islands- and the Channel Islands has its own BBC Region in its own right) -and making them feel that BBC Look North does provide coverage relevant to them.