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Normal business?

Hayley Valentine | 15:52 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010


Tony Blair gives evidence to the Iraq inquiry tomorrow. 5 live will be there for every minute of it. Peter Allen is at the inquiry from 0900 tomorrow - he'll report live on the arrival of the former PM, and present coverage of the questioning throughout the day, culminating in a special final hour of Drive devoted to the events of the day.

As well as Mr Blair himself, we'll hear from the people in the public gallery who may have lost loved ones or faith in their government because of his decisions back in 2001. Gabby Logan anchors our coverage from the studio from 1000 until 1600, and Anita Anand joins Peter at 1600 live from Westminster. Our Chief Political Correspondent John Pienaar, and correspondent Peter Hunt, who has followed the whole inquiry closely, will be on hand to provide explanation and analysis.

Normal business is suspended. Or is it?

At the heart of 5 live's remit is a commitment to cover live news and live events. If tomorrow's plan isn't what our radio station is for, then what is? This is normal business, isn't it? But on a 24/7 news and sports network there is room for much more than our basic remit - longer discussions about the week's news and sport moments (and Andy Murray has certainly provided us with those this week) and a broader news agenda than many of our rivals. Entertainment news and the arts play a big part.

Friday afternoons usually provide that room - we know how popular our sport preview panel is, and that Kermode and Mayo on the week's new films is a 'must listen' for millions of you. Equally, for many people the Iraq inquiry may feel like history or political theatre, rather than news. And it's worth remembering that nobody is on trial. The day will not end with a dramatic verdict.

So the decision to 'open the fader' is not quite as black-and-white as it might look. Making judgements about what our audience wants is not an exact science. Those of you who find this story fascinating text and email us to tell us what you think of each daily instalment. We haven't had many of the "isn't there any proper news?" emails which sometimes pop up when you don't like our choices. Many of you who are fascinated by the evidence get in touch only to tell us to stop interrupting. But there may be a silent majority who very quietly switch off when we devote time to the events of the Inquiry. And tomorrow, when many might tune in expecting to hear something quite different, will provide us with a real test.

But our deserved reputation as the place you get the best available coverage of big live news events is foremost in my mind as we make decisions like this. It's my job, more than anything else, to protect and enhance this reputation. Unlike the continuous TV channels we can't just "select the feed" and sit back. Our job tomorrow will be to engage, to unpick, to contextualise and to explain Tony Blair's words, while, wherever possible, letting you hear them for yourselves. Let us know how you think we do.

Hayley Valentine is Head of News at 5 live.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hayley, I wish you good luck for tomorrow and pray for you that some big football or X factor story doesn't break because then you'll be faced with a real conundrum! Personally I shall be glued to the radio to hear this and hope for as little interruption as possible. So pleased that Peter Allen is lead in this coverage

  • Comment number 2.

    Hayley just make sure you don't editorialise and just report the facts. No anti-war bias, or Blair bashing please. The facts will speak for themselves, one way or the other.

  • Comment number 3.

    This blog was hard to find!

  • Comment number 4.

    Why not use 5LSX for Kermode and Mayo?

  • Comment number 5.

    I had a ticket for this morning. I am going to have to listen to Gabby telling me whether I heard it right.

    Did she mention how Botoxy and sweaty Mr Blair appeared?

    It is a long broadcast but at least we have Peter later.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hoping to listen to Kermode and Mayo's Film Review live I went straight to their programme page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lvdrj Absolutely no information at all that it was still being broadcast online

    Not only that, the "Now on air..." banner near the top of the page only lists The Iraq Inquiry. Again no mention.

    I've no problem with Five Live clearing its schedules but surely better information should be provided on the relevant pages of the bumped programmes?

  • Comment number 7.

    Very cross at Five Live clearing schedule for this whitewash. Dull, nothing new and not going to achieve anything. I wonder how much 'bad news' has been buried today.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks Hayley. No interruptions! Lots of decent analysis between sittings. Excellent. This event was given the prominence it deserved.

  • Comment number 9.

    Apologies if this isn't relevent for whatever this blog is about but where's the blog about Blair's performance at the Iraq enquiry seeing that 5 Live decided to cancel everything to bring blanket coverage of this esoteric charade! I do hope that the relevent presenters whose programmes were obliterated by these proceedings (apart from the odd murmer to wake the devoted up) volunteer to devote part of their 'undisclosed' salary to charity or something!


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