Covering the region 

12 November 2015

Every year from 1963 until 1988, the Independent Television/Broadcasting Authority produced a yearbook, listing ITV (and later ILR) achievements in the past 12 months, future plans and features on the ITV companies and their output. In 1974, the book included a feature on Tyne Tees Television’s news and current affairs output, which we reproduce below. – Russ J Graham, Editor

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In addition to the national news service, each ITV area has its own regular local news and news magazine programme. These magazines are mostly 25 or 30-minute programmes presented at 6pm immediately after the ITN bulletin. They are an important element in the identification of each company with its own area. The core of local programme origination is the day-by-day service of news and information, weather, sport, and local politics. These pages show some aspects of the activities of one company, Tyne Tees Television, in its local coverage of news, current affairs, and documentaries.

The North East is often thought of primarily as an industrial area, but it is very much more. Though industry, and in particular, shipbuilding and mining, continue to provide much news, the wide stretches of unspoilt countryside, the great historical monuments like Hadrian’s Wall, Durham Cathedral, and Bamburgh Castle, are now a focus for tourism – and news. The area, too, looks out onto the North Sea. Its links with Scandinavia have always been close, and these are now supplemented by new ties with the Common Market countries, especially Germany and Holland. And it is a region with a vigorous artistic and intellectual life with universities in the heart of Newcastle and Durham, with the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra, a very active folk music movement, and good theatres.

'Access': The Alston Line Action Group present their case to save this country railway line.

‘Access’: The Alston Line Action Group present their case to save this country railway line.

All of this makes the North East a strong news area, and for many years the regional programmes of Tyne Tees Television have had a strong journalistic flavour. The main instrument of the station’s news coverage is the daily news magazine Today At Six. This is broadcast every week-night at 6pm for half an hour and is supplemented by a Late News Extra.

The news policy of Today At Six is not only to cover the hard news thoroughly and to investigate news in depth and human interest stories, but also to develop from within the news magazine specialist programmes which can make particular types of news into television programmes in their own right. For example, a news team visited Dortmund, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Kiel on a ten-day fact finding safari for a series examining links between the North East and the Common Market.

The training ship 'Sir Winston Churchill' returns to Newcastle after an extensive training voyage.

The training ship ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ returns to Newcastle after an extensive training voyage.

Political stories play an important part in daily news coverage, and they also have their own specialist programme, Front Page Debate. This is mounted on Friday evenings and enables Members of Parliament and other political leaders to make their case to the public – and the public to challenge them in return. In Times Four some of the best minds in northern universities and polytechnics were brought together to discuss public affairs from their trained and individual viewpoints.

But politics is not the only field in which specialist programmes have developed out of the nightly news programme. Farming Outlook is a half-hour programme, presented weekly, which devotes itself to issues in this important farming area. It is also seen in the North West and Yorkshire. Travel and tourism have been covered in the documentary series Tour and The North Country. Individual documentaries have dealt with salmon fishing, pigeon fancying, fox hunting, and various topics of local interest.


‘Today At Six’: A news film unit on location on the occasion of the restoration of Fountains Abbey, near Ripon.

For industry the company has long had a weekly programme, Where The Jobs Are, which forms a Labour Exchange of the air. The station was also one of the pioneers of police information programmes. Police Call goes out weekly and is respected as playing an important part in combating crime in the area.

And in a region which contains Sunderland Football Club and Newcastle United, sport is a great source of news. Sport gets a regular place in the nightly news magazine, but has its own programmes. These include Sportstime, which has a weekly look at the North-East sports scene, and Shoot, which covers major football league games. There is also outside broadcast coverage of specialist sports like snooker and indoor bowls as well as extensive coverage of racing. But the great sporting event of 1973 was, of course, Second Division Sunderland’s defeat of mighty Leeds in the FA Cup. Tyne Tees Television put three camera units into Sunderland on Cup Final day. The production team worked non-stop to have the half-hour film Meanwhile, Back in Sunderland… ready for transmission on the Monday, little more than 48 hours after the event.

The cameras capture HRH Princess Anne at the launching of the 'World Unicorn' at Wallsend Shipyard.

The cameras capture HRH Princess Anne at the launching of the ‘World Unicorn’ at Wallsend Shipyard.

In 1973 entirely new ground was broken in the investigation of local news by a series called Access. Groups with something to say – e.g. the group critical of the rebuilding of Newcastle’s City centre, the advocates of an income for disabled people, the Ramblers Association – were given the facilities to put their own case on film. Film crews and expert advice were provided, but the groups devised the film and wrote the words to put their own case exactly as they saw it. In the interests of fairness and good television it was felt that others who might differ from them were entitled to challenge that film version and debate the points made in it. This resulted in a two-part programme, one part the case made on film, the second a discussion of the filmed case. The result has been some gripping television which has added a freshness and a further dimension to regional current affairs coverage.

This intensive coverage of regional news, regional sport, and regional current affairs is the heart of the station’s activities. Tyne Tees however has long held the view that its journalistic responsibilities to the area do not stop at reporting the region to the region. It believes it has a duty to look at national events from the regional point of view. Two programmes – Face The Press and Challenge – designed to do this have frequently won acclaim for their treatment of the big issues of the day.

You Say

5 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 13 November 2015 at 9:32 am

For the record, the Alston Line Action Group weren’t successful – the Alston to Haltwhistle line closed two years later due to improved road links. The four mile stretch of the old 13-and-a-half mile track starting at Alston has since been resurrected as the South Tynedale Railway.

Joanne Gray 10 December 2015 at 9:04 pm

I’m just about old enough to remember Today at 6 and Farming Outlook – the latter despite not having the slightest interest in farming, but it’s amazing the things one will watch when there are only three channels to choose from on a Sunday lunchtime.

Maureen Grey 5 July 2017 at 2:04 pm

Im hoping someone can help im looking for a clip of my late uncle im sure it was callrd Northern life it was on in the evening in 1976 it was about Newcastle i know its a long shot but its really important hope someone can help thanks

Russ J Graham 5 July 2017 at 3:02 pm

Hello Maureen.

Please see

Michael Speight 20 November 2020 at 5:46 pm

does anyone know what the title of the library music used for farming outlooks theme tune was called.

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