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Where has BBC Radio Five Live Gone?

I produced programmes for the original incarnation of BBC Radio 5.

A grab-bag of programmes from all over the place stuffed onto 693 & 909 under a completely lovely controller who seemed totally out of her depth marrying the disparate parts of her network. Radio 5 had some of it’s own shows, some shared with the regions, others with BFBS and some random OU items.

It was a well-intentioned mess.

Thankfully it moved on and Jenny Abramsky arrived with a vision of a news & sports network, following the success of the “Scud FM” service on Radio 4 FM during the first Gulf War.

BBC Radio Five Live was an instant hit. It married news, sport and BBC values perfectly. It was also perfectly cast with Jane Garvey & Peter Allen on Breakfast, Eddie Mair at lunchtime and Inverdale at Drive.

Over the years the schedule evolved with Julian Worricker, Simon Mayo and Victoria Derbyshire excelling in their ability to manage light and shade in their daily strip-shows.

Now 5 Live is a mess.

Breakfast is still strong with great casting and direction. But the new schedule means that casual listeners don’t know whether they’re getting chalk or cheese (Peter Allen or Adrian Chiles) midday and then an afternoon show that manages to falter and halter like a car that needs a trip to the garage, stat.

Some of this is casting. The on-air team has changed rapidly since the station moved to the southern outpost of Salford, meaning that a number of the best voices were lost.

But other errors have been in the recipe.

Different presenters on midday shows in a nonsense that died everywhere else in the world 20 years ago. Listeners need to build a daily bond to keep them loyal to the station.

The formatics are confusing: at one point yesterday they pointed up the news of a shooting in Ottawa and, rather than go straight to it, they trailed an audio clip on the station website!

Five Live ought to be a jewel in the BBC’s crown.

Instead it mucks about with sport discussions and attempts to pull the listeners’ heartstrings. It’s at it’s best when it’s all about the live stiff.

Sort out your formatics guys – particularly your service elements.

Otherwise Global’s LBC will eat you alive!

Author: johnco

Born in 1963, been involved in radio since 1977.

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