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5 live News: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Steve Mawhinney Steve Mawhinney | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

5 live's Victoria Derbyshire brings listeners face-to-face with politicians as part of an outside broadcast on crime

5 live's Victoria Derbyshire brings listeners face-to-face with politicians as part of an outside broadcast on crime

So, three months in (and boy, does it feel like more) I've been asked to share a few thoughts about life as Head of News at 5 live and my vision for the station.

I've picked six reflections. They are, I fear, neither definitive nor comprehensive and I am sure I have forgotten lots of important things but I hope they will provide some insight into where I hope our news programmes are going and what we are trying to do.

1) In a way that I had failed to grasp before I arrived, 5 live is all about its audience. Compared to the rest of BBC News, 5 live is shaped, driven and often delivered by its listeners to a much greater extent. Your contribution in terms of calls, texts and emails are crucial to what we do and in the light of that, I am encouraging new ways to help that inform our journalism.

This involves capturing and re-using the best of it and allowing you to help guide us to what matters most to you. This does not mean we give up editorial control though. Throughout we need to bring our journalistic creativity, rigour and sense of fair play.

2) What counts as news on 5 live, you may have noticed, embraces pretty much anything and everything. I know that frustrates some folks but I believe it is a real strength. It means there is nothing happening anywhere in the UK or the world that is out of bounds.

So, at the beginning of last week Peter Allen on Drive was talking to the owner of Bodhi, the skateboarding dog in Brighton, about the threat of fines from his local council if Bodhi didn't step off his board (no, really...). By the end of the week Peter was reporting live from Tahrir Square in Cairo as President Mubarak announced he was standing down as the President of Egypt, conveying the sights and sounds as a moment of history unfolded in front of his eyes.

It is all part of the weft and weave that makes 5 live what we want it to be - compelling listening, day in and day out.

3) If it's important and it's happening now, it should be on 5 live. Big, breaking news will always be a priority on my watch, whenever it happens. We don't want simply to cover the obvious stories, though; we also want to generate some of our own. In some parts of the schedule we are already doing this well - do check out 5 live Investigates on a Sunday evening if you can - but I am keen to drive this forward across all our programmes.

In particular, 5 live should be the home of the best and most insightful sports news and this is a priority for me.

4) We want to bring those in power face-to-face with the people they have power over. This is something 5 live does instinctively and I have come to believe is fundamental to our mission.

When the Victoria Derbyshire team last week managed to persuade Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division of the High Court, to come on to 5 live for his first live interview - and just as importantly to take calls from our listeners whose lives have been changed by decisions made in his courts - then 5 live is, I believe, doing something profoundly important.

5) We also want to be a place that gives voice to people and views that are not always heard elsewhere. That's why connecting to and reporting the whole of the UK in all its variety and diversity is central to our vision and we have a team of reporters based around the UK tasked with doing exactly that.

But it is not just about geographical diversity. We have delivered some brilliant radio by hearing from people like Tony Nicklinson, who has locked-in syndrome and can only communicate via eye movements, and a large number of listeners with speech impediments who contacted Your Call because they wanted their voices to be heard. We hope that people, whatever their age, experience or background, will feel that 5 live is a place that welcomes and is interested in them.

6) Finally, drum roll, we want 5 live to be fun. Oh yes! Fun to work on and fun to listen to. I think it is fair to say that for many people there is a lot in their lives at the moment which isn't much fun and we need to expose and air their concerns and the big issues behind them with the help of the best journalists that the BBC has to offer.

But we also want to be a place where people enjoy coming to because there is a warmth, humanity and humour; a sense of community that means the audience feels it belongs.

And my experience has been that amid the doom and gloom the world throws up, there is nearly always something to smile about.

Related Posts
Reporting a Revolution: 5 live in Cairo

Steve Mawhinney is 5 live's Head of News


  • Comment number 1.

    Peter and Phil Have done a great job. Old fashioned reporting which opens up the news to the listeners of 5Live who in the past would have expected this; recently it has been not forthcoming. So hopefully more of this reporting.

    "That's why connecting to and reporting the whole of the UK in all its variety and diversity is central to our vision and we have a team of reporters based around the UK tasked with doing exactly that. " As far as this is concerned there is no real evidence of this. Northern Ireland features because Nolan repeats some of his weekday shows on his weekend programmes. Salford/Manchester seems to contain experts on anything you want to use and people in the street to provide you with an opinion. London features but not the larger South East region. BUT!! what about Scotland, Wales, the South West, East Anglia and Southern England? It is so frustrating to see these regions being totally ignored and largely unreported.

  • Comment number 2.

    I started listening to 5Live in 2002 for the World Cup ... and I'm still listening. I was raised on the Home Service (Radio 4), and never ever thought I'd switch from the Today programme. However, when I listened to the 5Live Breakfast show, I realised I could hear the news and have some laughs as well. I love the immediacy of the news reporting and flexibility of changing a schedule to discuss immediate and arising issues. However, I confess I switch back to Radio 4 for the plays!

  • Comment number 3.

    Steve, there must be something fearful coming in through the ventilation system at 5 not so live(only joking) making you forget that it's us guys out here pickin' up the 6 reflections of the light of your vision bouncing off whatever its lighting up. You really can't reflect off yourself if you get my drift.
    Your dead right about journalistic 'creativity' and News, I'm right behind you there. The former august President of Egypt so graciously 'standing down', for e.g.
    And power wise, every day 5 live is face to face with its master/mistress you could say; its financial supporters. That's quite a whammy of warm, humane- and rational- power to smile at.

  • Comment number 4.

    Steve, I am a huge fan of 5 live and I think you're all doing an awesome job. I managed to catch most of Peter's Egypt broadcast and it was really quite something - I could just imagine the atmosphere in Tahrir Square, particularly as I had worked in Cairo a few years ago.. keep up the great work!


  • Comment number 5.

    @Anna Sempe - Thanks for your comment. The BBC blog and message board House Rules don't let users post links to personal websites unless they are editorially relevant to the post. In the future please don't link to your site in your name or as a signature. Many thanks.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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