Countdown to Salford
Let me quote Fran Yeoman, writing in the home news pages of the Times:
- Labour's six deputy leadership candidates went "speed dating" on radio yesterday. Each was given 6 minutes on Radio 5 Live to chat up two listeners: Vicci Goulding, Miss Wigan 2007, and Ged Sweeney, a former Labour Party member who left over tuition fees. Mindful of the forthcoming final of Miss England, Ms Goulding asked Harriet Harman what her special talent would be. "I think my talent would be encouraging people," the nonplussed Justice Minister managed.
The listeners had been tracked down by our audience editor Lou Birt and the item was brought to air by the team led by Simon Mayo's editor, John Cary. It was engaging, informative, and it challenged the politicians. I rather think they enjoyed it and I am certain that William Hague - who appeared on the Mayo programme just after the speed daters - enjoyed it even more. (Listen here to the programme.)
But in the week or so following the BBC Trust's confirmation that Five Live will be among the services transferring to Salford, a question arose in my mind: is this the sort of item that Five Live simply will not be able to do so well in the future?
Every Wednesday, the Mayo programme decamps to Millbank, to frame Prime Minister's Questions and to talk, face to face, to a panel of MPs. The panel conversation, and the speed-dating type of treatment, tend to work well because Simon can engage his guests with glances, body language and gestures - as well as words.
This is the sort of problem we've now got to grapple with as the countdown to Salford begins in earnest. Five Live will remain the home of continuous news on BBC domestic radio - so we have to ensure that the right systems are in place to guarantee that its news coverage is as authoritative, stylish and engaging as ever.