BBC 5 Live at 20

The BBC loves its own anniversaries. So it was no surprise that Radio 5 Live lost no opportunity to tell listeners that the station turned 20 years old this week.

Is it really 20 years? I remember joking about the name of the station when it launched in 1994: it sounded like 5 Alive, the fruit juice. It was the month John Major’s government was in trouble (just for a change), this time about funding of the Pergau dam in Malaysia.

I also remember an earlier fifth BBC radio network: Radio 5, launched in 1988, which broadcast an uneasy mix of sport and education programmes. Its successor station 5 Live has successfully mixed sport and news, but as Nicky Campbell said on 5 Live Breakfast today, some doubted that 5 Live would be any more successful with its own mix of sport and news. It has proved the doubters wrong.

I was a teenage fan of Radio 4’s Today programme, but during my forties I felt more at home with 5 Live. I like the more informal approach, and the banter amongst the presenters. The newer station can also be harder hitting: I blogged last year about Nicky Campbell’s brilliantly forensic demolition of hapless Blackberry boss Stephen Bates. Peter Allen is equally incisive.

I did feel nostalgic this afternoon listening to Peter Allen reunited with Jane Garvey on Drive. And their mention of former travel news reader Jo Sale took me right back to my early days regularly listening to the station in early 2005.

Here’s to the next 20 years. You can bet the BBC is already planning the 40th anniversary programmes. PS: look out for the half century celebration of Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 in 2017…

Jane Garvey, Adrian Chiles and Marcus Buckland on 5 Live's launch day. Photo: BBC

Jane Garvey, Adrian Chiles and Marcus Buckland on 5 Live’s launch day. Photo: BBC

Remembering Tony Greig and Christopher Martin-Jenkins

Cricket lost two legends as 2012 gave way to 2013. First Tony Greig, the South Africa-born 1970s England captain. As if that wasn’t enough, within three days the voice of cricket, BBC commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins lost his battle against cancer.

Both featured heavily in my 1970s teenage holidays. Cricket was the sound track to my summer, courtesy of the BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS) and I loved Tony Greig’s confident style and sense of humour. I was enthralled in the hot summer of 1976 by his wonderful partnership with Alan Knott in the Leeds test against the West Indies. (Both scored 116.) It was the highlight of a disappointing series for England, and I remember listening to the latest collapse on the radio as we enjoyed the heatwave at Tintagel.

Greig looked foolish after his boastful claim that his team would make the West Indies grovel. (Although a 3-0 series defeat looked good compared with the 1984 whitewash.) Yet Greig’s sense of humour won friends, as his team mate and friend Mike Selvey explained in a Guardian tribute.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ) was the voice of reason in the often chaotic TMS commentary box. As the years went by, his authority grew and it’s not unreasonable to argue that he was cricket’s greatest reporter – on air and in print.

They’ll both be sadly missed.