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

Live from Machynlleth: not BBC 5 Live Drive’s finest hour

I enjoy listening to BBC Radio 5 Live on my daily commute. I like the lively presentation style of Breakfast with Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden, and Drive with Peter Allen and Aasmah Mir. But Drive had a seriously off day today.

I switched on for the 6pm news. The show led on the distressing disappearance of five year old April Jones in Machynlleth, mid Wales. Almost every presenter and reporter (with the honourable exception of Peter Allen) mispronounced the town’s name. The most regular versions were ‘Mahynlleth’ and ‘Makunleth’. Now I accept Machynlleth isn’t the easiest name for English (or Scottish in the case of Aasmah Mir) people, but you’d have thought they’d have made an effort.

It got worse. Drive moved on to discuss Ed Milliband’s speech to Labour’s annual conference. We heard various people including Neil Kinnock telling the show what they thought of the speech. But they didn’t play a single clip of the actual speech. Not a word. Perhaps people who tuned in an hour earlier got to hear Milliband? Hardly a reason to treat the opposition leader’s most important speech of the year in such a cavalier fashion.

I hope they do better tomorrow.