BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) does need to cover rural Northumberland better- and overlap into the Scottish Borders.

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 ( 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.

Published by northwestisnorthwest

My name is Ian Pennell and I am a freelance Book-keeper: I live near Alston, in the North Pennines in north-east Cumbria. I have friends who live in northern North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 17 years ago) and in other parts of Cumbria. I have two Website Campaigns that seek to promote more localised Regional TV coverage for large rural areas across the North of North West England and North East England. . A big problem is that the Regional Television Bulletins for the North West covers the southern third of the Region about 90% (plus a part of Derbyshire which is NOT the North West of England), covers the middle third of North West England poorly and covers the northern third of North West England not at all! When I was studying at Lancaster University, I used to watch BBC1 North West Tonight because it covered areas up around where I was brought up- in northern Cumbria as well as more immediately locally around Lancaster. Then I came home one day, turned on BBC1 North West Tonight wondering why they were silent on Cumbria and discovered why: Most of Cumbria had been chopped off the weather-map! . People living in the westernmost part of North West England (around St. Bees Head) have local BBC news on their televisions which is 90% about North East England! In rural and northern Northumberland too, Regional TV, as is received by viewers, tends too often to be Tyneside/ Wearside/ Teesside- focussed with little news locally. Communities in North Northumberland have strong links across the Border into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh but none of the Regional TV News- services serving Northumberland today ever goes across the Scottish Border for significant happenings of interest to North Northumbrians. I have also done walking in the area, including around the Cheviots in the past- and the Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ East and Mid Lothian area is vast- but it is largely overlooked by mainstream Regional TV! . North Yorkshire, the largest county in England also falls in the gaps between coverage from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees in the north of the county, and the Leeds-based BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV- services in the south of the county: North Yorkshire is a huge, yet beautiful county, which I have visited and explored in the past, yet is poorly covered in Regional TV. . Based near Alston, near the Cumbria/ Northumberland boundary I am well-placed to discuss Regional TV in all these large rural areas, in which collectively some two million folk live, yet they are poorly covered by the Regional TV News- services set up to serve them. These huge areas are an hour to two hours' drive from where I live: North Lancashire and South/ West Cumbria are to the south-west, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and Lothian are to the north and north-east, and North Yorkshire is to the south-east of my home near Alston. I am well-placed to draw attention to deficiencies in Regional TV coverage for folk in all these areas. The North Pennines, where I live, is arguably another large area that touches on the other three where Regional TV coverage falls through the gaps completely (and that is despite the North Pennines running north to south down the middle of the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria Region). . In two websites, one for northern North West England and the Isle of Man (a country in it's own right that does not have it's own TV service!), and another Website focussing on Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the North Pennines I make the point that Regional TV that informs viewers of important things in their local area is a Public Service, funding for which should be given a higher priority (and if necessary via statute through the BBC's Charter), than funding for Soaps, Films or Sport- which are for leisure. I also give viewers the tools to fight effectively for better- and more geographic-appropriate Regional TV where they live- and to seek it through alternative (often little-known) local TV services, some of which may only be available on the Internet.

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