This week Northumberland has been short-changed on BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees.

With the exception of a report about swimmers getting into difficulty on the Northumberland coast and needing to be rescued by Seahouses RNLI (reported on on ITV Tyne Tees) the county has had negligible coverage throughout the week. Both BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria) and ITV Tyne Tees covered North Yorkshire fairly extensively this last week- even providing some overlap southwards of the ITV Tyne Tees and BBC (North East/ Cumbria) transmission areas- in order that North Yorkshire viewers of ITV Tyne Tees and the North East version of Look North get news- coverage across their own county.

It is all well- and- good for both the North East based Regional Television broadcasters to cover North Yorkshire, but over 300,000 people live in the county of Northumberland (and Northumberland takes up a third of the geographical area of the English North East Region assuming this also includes North Yorkshire.). The majority of those 300,000 people live in rural areas of northern and western Northumberland well away from the main centres of population- and if they are lucky to get just one news- report out of ten or eleven concerning rural Northumberland on nightly Regional News bulletins then that is not really acceptable.

However, the whole issue of coverage of Northumberland- and the Scottish Borders to the north- is actually more serious: Certainly with regards to BBC Regional coverage, this is a vast rural area that hardly gets covered at all. There are strong cultural and historic bonds between Northumberland and the Scottish borders- and the Hard Border that the respective BBC Regions have at the Scottish Border cuts through close communities like the Berlin Wall that separated Berlin prior to 1989. Folk who live in (say) Wooler are interested in what happens just over the Border in Kelso (22 miles away). Likewise, the good people of Chirnside, in the east of the Scottish Borders are likely to travel to Berwick-upon-Tweed in northernmost Northumberland (just ten miles away) to go shopping. The ancient county of Berwickshire (which was the rural hinterland to Berwick-upon-Tweed) mainly extends over the Border into what is now the Scottish Borders. Overlap news- coverage here is not just desirable, but essential for effective local coverage of northernmost Northumberland.

BBC Reporting Scotland, which is received by viewers in the Scottish Borders, provides little coverage of the Scottish Borders (and no overlap into Northumberland), though (at least) this area still receives the Scottish opt-out programming from ITV Border (which does cover southern Scotland well and provides overlap coverage of Berwick-upon-Tweed). Neither ITV Tyne Tees nor BBC Look North (North East/ Cumbria), which is received in all of Northumberland, serve the area well in terms of coverage. Moreover, neither provide overlap coverage into the Scottish Borders- despite the fact that it is possible to get from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Edinburgh on the train within an hour.

So a huge rural area of northern Britain is neglected by both the BBC and ITV in Regional output. This is clearly not good enough for a huge rural area that extends eighty miles from south to north and sixty miles from the mid-Northumberland Coast to the western end of the Scottish Borders, and which is home to over 400,000 people. BBC Look North’s programmers would not dare to overlook their North and West Cumbrian viewers like this (who total just over 300,000- and many Cumbrians still find the North East -flavoured output largely irrelevant at times), so why is Northumberland effectively ignored? Northumberland viewers don’t have the option of switching over to ITV Border like Cumbrian viewers can. Any viewers in Northumberland who feel their entire area is being overlooked would be well- encouraged to write in and make their views felt- in the first instance contacting the programmers directly.

For viewers of BBC Look North the email address is: look.north.comment@bbc.co.uk

For viewer of ITV Tyne Tees in Northumberland email: pamandian@itv.com

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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