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Radio 5 live celebrates 20 years

Friday 28 March 2014, 15:37

Jonathan Wall Jonathan Wall Controller, Radio 5 Live

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BBC Radio 5 live and I go back a long way. It was my route into radio. My earliest radio memories are listening to the football scores with my Dad during Radio Sport on Radio 2 back in 1979. Fifteen years later - a postgrad journalism student at Falmouth College - I was listening to the 5 live launch day. I was desperate to get a job in the media and looking back now I think listening to the launch must have helped me to eventually get into the trade, because it happened only a few months later: as a sports and news broadcast journalist in local radio at Radio Humberside. Jane Garvey presents 5 live's first programme broadcast at 5am 28 Mar 1994.

As a journalism student inerested in politics and sport, 5 live was a sort of dream station for me. Radio Five, it's predecessor, had been a mish-mash of children's programmes, sport, education output and some news - something a little bit more difficult for me as a listener to understand what it was exactly. But a dedicated news and sport station for the network from 1994 made more obvious sense and with more radio output needed for more live broadcasting hours, little wonder it stimulated local radio, providing more opportunities for new-starters.

Soon after I joined Humberside, I moved into TV sport as a researcher in 1996. But I realised soon after that I missed the excitement of live radio. A job as a sports bulletin producer for 5 live followed in 1998. I became Deputy Controller in 2008, and Controller just last year.

During that time, I think the station's enduring appeal has been the conversational tone which was then - and to a certain extent still is now - one of the most unique things in radio. 5 live has a largely unscripted conversation with the audience threaded through its output. Its a topical, live debate, breaking news and sport station. There are plenty of similarities with how we were as a station twenty years ago: we've stayed true to what our purpose in life is.

But there's something rather special about its spirit. Something that people who visit Salford have commented to me back in London. It's to do with the energy which comes from the 5 live operation. Energy you can hear from the output.

Putting our news and sport alongside one another has definitely energised staff - sport's reporting has benefitted news, and storytelling techniques in news have benefitted our sports journalism. Bringing those two things closer together helps share skills and experience more readily. More than that though, I believe that if you're an all-day live radio station, there's excitement from every part of the station wherever you are on the floor. It's infectious as you walk around the building here in Salford.

Of course, there's a challenge with that: you have to make all the different subject areas gel together. We've done that this week with swapping presenters around for the 20th anniversary and its really worked well, in the same way that the bringing together of Olympics and 5 live did so successfully in 2012. When it works well you can see it in the office and hear it on the radio too.

The ability to set ourselves up in Salford has had a massive effect on us too. Getting the technical side set up exactly how we needed it to be for our programmes was a great opportunity for us. Practically it made it better for us to work as one station. Inevitably, when the entire station moved, new people arrived too - so there's been a re-energising from that as well.

With any birthday, a card needs to be written. (We'll be having cake too, on Friday lunchtime, cut by our very own Peter Allen). So, what would I say in the birthday card? I suspect I'd need a big card. There are a lot of people to shout out to. First, I'd thank the people who've worked on the station over the last 20 years and cared so much about it: a committed hard-working bunch of people who love working on 5 Live and are responsible for making it all happen. But, the audience gets a share of the birthday love too, an audience with whom we have, what I think is, a unique relationship. They'll tell us when they like it and they'll also tell us when they think we've got it wrong - we really appreciate that. It's a special thing for me because it demonstrates that the audience truly are part of the shows we make, as much as the production staff and the presenters.

Thank you, all of you. Share in the birthday love. And if there's not enough cake to go round, I'll just take half a slice.

Jonathan Wall is Controller of Radio 5 live.













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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This is a bit of a backslapping article to go with the full on backslappingg of this celebration. Faults and discussions about negatives seem to be lost in the post. You have no dialogue with listeners apart from this blog which is ignored for weeks, then three arrive at once, and if your mod doesn't like it away it goes. Surely you will never improve without good and bad feedback, Jonathon? There is so much potential but it seems that the poor presenters outlive criticism. Returning to Radio Four quite a bit now but still listening to post 10pm 5Live, what is so clear is that 5Live programmes are too dominated by football, namely the top 5 or 6 Premiership clubs, for so much of your sport programming. It may be true that is what your listeners want and so fair play. But what I and I am sure many miss is the pure regionalism of the old 5Live which took stories and sport from all over the country instead of just within 25 miles of Salford. You may as well forget the regions because you just never feature them. A programme rather like From Our Own Correspondent but based on BBC local journalists used to be so informative and interesting, now places are only on if there has been a newsworthy murder or massive accident.

    I am amazed you are not based in Salford.

    I would like to know just how much all the commuting costs the BBC and at a time when Tony Hall is planning to cut away some of the channels and slash and burn, why on earth is there so much waste in your station? Stephen Nolan's commute and stay a case in point. If Victoria can do her programme from London regularly, why can't he do his from Belfast?

    I doubt you will answer any of my questions or comment on anything written on this blog page but if you could just persuade your staff to post regularly and have a dialogue with listeners then things would be so much improved. As an original listener from the start, and someone who knows a fair few people at the BBC right up to a one degree of separation of two of my close friends with your peak man, I do feel neglected like so many listeners who feel you don't really want full feedback which may lead you to change for the better. I can put up with Bacon as a=n example, sometimes, but why are you so afraid to issue individual programme figures? We listeners know they exist because we were told by Livesey, so why not expose them to us so YOU can say I told you so, rather than the listeners telling you it is mostly awful student stuff.

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    Comment number 2.

    It seems the keyboard warriors are out en masse in cyber world, reading this thread http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1770321&page=224 people would be forgiven to think that 5live is going downhill, the controllers for the last 10 years or so, are ignoring the masses and not giving people what they want.

    In fact the opposite is true, why would controller after controller stick with the likes of Nolan and Bacon, if they don't bring the listeners in, its illogical, people keep harping on about the past, like the schedules were some kind of listeners paradise, people move on, things evolve, the current presenters are what the 5live listenership want to hear, if they didn't they would stop listening but they don't, look at the rajars.

    This chest beating by the keyboard warriors, is nothing more than an irritating fly that needs swatting, nothing more, nothing less.

    Btw Carrie I am sure you Question regarding the cost of Nolan broadcasting from Belfast has already been answered on a previous blog post, which again indicates that you will not be happy until a controller agrees with your way of thinking, it really is not constructive.

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    Comment number 3.

    My dear old Fed. Good day.
    No, Nolan's problem was answered by saying that it was good for the team to be together not remote. So why not dear Vicky too? Never answered at all.
    As far as the numbers, they are static and without 5LSE they would be in dire trouble. Which is why I requested openness in the rajars. The top listening numbers will never be tuning in to the Moan In, I can assure you Fed.
    Harping about the past? No mate, asking them to connect to the future before they too get the Hall Snip on some of their output.

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    Comment number 4.

    Carrie here is a question for you:

    Controller after controller stick with the likes of Nolan, Bacon and the rest, why is that? Surely if the masses agree with you and your minions on other forums, 5live will be forced to change, they will have no choice, which begs the Question why have they not changed and given in to the aforementioned minions, the answer is that these keyboard warriors are not as representative of the wider 5live audience, as they like to think.

    Which in turn answers your question about why Mr Wall does not come on this blog more often, his time is best used by visiting media which is more balanced and constructive, such as the Guardian, and such like.

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    Comment number 5.

    I can answer one of my questions, in general at least. BBC expenses claims up 20% in the first half of their budget year.

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    Comment number 6.

    Don't you see the irony, you express your ire at Jonathan Wall for not answering Questions, but you are doing exactly the same thing!

    Go on Carrie have ago;

    If Nolan, Bacon and the rest, are dumbing down 5live, are not a patch on fi glover and the like, why is controller after controller, sticking with them? Surely if views made by the keyboard warriors are on internet forums, blogs etc. are representative of the 5live audience as a whole, 5live will have no choice but to get rid of them, it does not make business sense to have presenter's/schedules which the masses are unhappy with, its illogical.

    You must accept that you and your friends on digitalspy and the like are in the minority, a very vocal minority I must admit, however a minority nonetheless.

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    Comment number 7.

    The reason I ask for individual listener numbers is because I know the answer to my questions. The fact the dire people stay on low ratings is because the listening numbers are boosted by sport. I can swear I have never been a troll or posted on digitalspy. I have had some email contact with Wall and I think he is ignoring one fact - the passive fan of the station can't be bothered to let him know how awful some people are on it - do you seriously think he can be bothered to remove them as he knows they will peak and fall in their interest at the Beeb, apart from the ubiquitous in every sense Nolan. Wall doesn't even work at MediaCity, he is part of the great commute sending the BBC further in to debt. You are right though, the days of Glover, Garvey, Hanna, Mair, et al were a whole lot better than this mob of self satisfied jobs for life.

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    Comment number 8.

    Again Carrie there is no logic to your argument, none whatsoever, the people you say are awful, the people that Mr Wall can not be bothered to remove, are the very same people who get regular gigs on other BBC outlets/ C4/C5,ITV,SKY the list is endless, if they really are that dire, why are they getting so many gigs?

    For someone who moans about 5live so much, you do strangely spend a lot of time on their blogs/emails/listening to 5live, if I don't like something I move on, not stagnate and try and force others to agree with your point of view.

    I can guarantee most people reading this blog post agree with me, they just cant be bothered in posting.

    Don't let the numbers game fall you!

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    Comment number 9.

    I couldn't agree more with carrie. Derbyshire, Bacon and Nolan are absolutely dire. It has got even worse lately since Nolan started broadcasting a misery/victimhood half hour at 11.30 p.m. I have emailed J Wall in the past, but given up hope of anyone else's opinion counting for anything. There are many of us with exactly the same thoughts on the forums, so we can't all be wrong.

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    Comment number 10.

    Happy 20th Birthday Five Live!

    I've listened since 1998 and think it is the BBC at its best. The hour programme at Friday lunchtime proved that, so many memorable moments and class presenters!

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    Comment number 11.

    To illustrate my complaint about the 5Live strap being repeated so often, last night on Phil Williams I counted seven, yes seven 5Lives in less than one minute. Absolutely ridiculous. As if you didn't know who you are listening to. By the way Fed, as you are the only person apparently reading my comments, can I just say that the reason Wall does not come on here and answer points is that he doesn't need to take any notice at all, of anyone, because he can do as he likes and he can just say criticisms are so rare they don't need to be answered. I know lots of people who listen to 5Live and like it more than I do these days, but they all have similar views to me on what I have said above. Fact is they don't care as they don't have the historical attachment I have, and they put up with the things that bug them, because they are younger and they shrug it off and enjoy the bits they do. Whereas I think constantly getting I think Chris Warburton's voice scratching out the audio logo is a huge turn off and totally unnecessary, likewise having music behind the traffic and the weather forecast. The latter has been transformed by being presented regionally now, instead of the way Simon whoever used to dot about all over the place. Anyway...........Rajars are static or lower, they are never higher although this summer of course they will be because of the World Cup. So that will quell the ne'ersayers like me.
    David Shield, hello. You always loved 5Live!

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    Comment number 12.

    Carrie why do you continue to listen to 5live, even though you dislike it so much? I cant see the logic.

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    Comment number 13.

    I pick and choose. Fortunately there are other stations. However there is no rhyme nor reason for the number of times in a minute you are told you are listening to 5Live. If you enjoy the programme you are listening to it when you are trapped in the station ID vortex.

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    Comment number 14.

    Hi Carrie, yes I do, it is the BBC at its best!

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    Comment number 15.

    What a self gratifying blog that is! I cannot believe the fact that Radio 5 waste money hand over fist by flying presenters here there and everywhere for no apparent reason. For instance the dulcet tones of Mark Pougatch can be heard presenting various sporting events from the venue and on the very rare occasion has the opportunity to stay in the studio thereby not spending huge sums on travel and accommodation. Is there really any need to have a presenter and two commentators together with a pundit at a football match? Surely the likes of Mr Pougatch (who clearly has no morals and is taking all he can from public money) can present the show from a studio thereby reducing the obvious expense. In fairness to Mark Pougatch he is just one of many presenters who are allowed to jet all over the world to present programmes nobody really requires. Try patting yourselves on the back for pouring public money down the drain and get a grip on reality before the BBC hits a brick wall and the licence fee that pays for these luxurious outings will soon end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The BBC is to send 272 staff to cover the World Cup, at a licence payer cost of £12 million. This will all obviously be TV and 5Live. How totally disgusting. No wonder they are laughing when you think of this jolly plus all the expenses they will claim. And who from all the 5Live programmes will be off to Brazil, even though England will probably be out by the end of the group stages? What's your bet? Nicky? Vicky? George?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I'd like to congratulate whoever had the idea for last night's Woodward/Barton interview. It was one of the most spellbinding hours of radio I can ever remember in the 20 years of 5 Live. I spent the last 20 minutes sat in the car so I didn't miss the end!

    A lot of other interviewers could learn a lot from Woodward's ability to listen to the interviewee and let them do the talking without interruption.
    It was just a shame that others in the BBC felt the need to sensationalise one comment within the the hour regarding Rooney, a comment that most football fans would agree with.


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