Entertainment & Arts

Tests follow awards for BBC 5 live

5 live breakfast team
Image caption The 5 live breakfast team celebrated their Sony Award with presenter Pamela Stephenson (centre)

Seventeen years after it launched, BBC 5 live - the corporation's rolling news and sport radio station - has become established at the heart of the UK radio landscape, winning six gold prizes at the Sony radio awards.

The station has also recently achieved record listening figures, but its programmes are under scrutiny from rivals and the corporation's governing trust.

It will also soon face the challenge of moving its entire operation to new studios in Salford.

Following the Sony success, BBC director general Mark Thompson hailed the station's "unique tone".

The gold awards included best breakfast programme for hosts Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty - the third time the pair have won the gong.

But the partnership has now split up, with Fogarty moving to the lunchtime slot. Fogarty "calmed down Nicky Campbell and helped him to sound human", the Daily Telegraph's Gillian Reynolds recently wrote.

Listeners are now getting used to Campbell new co-host Rachel Burden. Next year's Sony judges will have to do the same.

Victoria Derbyshire won the award for best news and current affairs programme for her mid-morning phone-in. Her topics range from music reviews to hard-hitting interviews with people behind the news.

The show has hit the headlines in recent months for interviews with figures such as PC David Rathband, who was shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat, the parents of the British aid worker Linda Norgrove, who was killed in Afghanistan, and a mother who helped her terminally ill son to commit suicide.

Image caption Drive, presented by Peter Allen (left), was rewarded for its general election coverage

When an alcoholic doctor called in February, The Guardian's radio critic Elisabeth Mahoney described it as a "gripping, awful, haunting listen".

Drive, the early evening news programme, won the breaking news award for its coverage of the formation of the coalition government after the general election last May.

The programme reacted to "a fast moving story with style, verve, insight and humour", the Sony judges said.

The award for best live event coverage went to the station's Ryder Cup broadcasts.

Danny Baker, meanwhile, who will return to the station next week after cancer treatment, picked up speech radio personality of the year.

Colin Murray's "winning mix of sport and comedy" was praised as his uproarious panel show Fighting Talk was named best sports programme.

Other highlights of the last 12 months include coverage of The Ashes, Septemberfest, a series of broadcasts from Newcastle and Gateshead, and the launch of Men's Hour - an alternative to Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

That mix has helped 5 live to its best ever audience ratings - breaking the seven million barrier in the last three months of 2010.

But it failed to retain the Sony title for national station of the year - that went to its rival Talksport, whose programmes were hailed by the judges for a "direction and a passion and excitement for sport that other stations often lack".

Image caption The station will move to MediaCity on Salford Quays later this year

Talksport is also taking on 5 live in another arena.

It complained to the BBC Trust that 5 live does not stick closely enough to its remit, which says it must dedicate 75% of its air time to news.

Talksport claimed that on the two days it monitored last March, only 61% and 44% of 5 live's output could be counted as news.

The BBC Trust rejected the complaint - but is now carrying out a review of the station's output and that of sister digital station 5 live sports extra.

Another big test for 5 live will be whether it can keep its award-winning style when it uproots from London and is installed in Salford's MediaCity from the autumn.

The plan has already caused some consternation, with Nicky Campbell and controller Adrian Van Klaveren among those who are expected to keep their families and main homes in the south.

Van Klaveren even experienced one of Victoria Derbyshire's trademark tough interviews when she tackled him about the subject on air in September.

Mark Thompson said he did not believe the quality of the station's output would be disrupted by the upheaval.

"There are particular opportunities for 5 live creatively in being based here," he said, speaking at MediaCity on Tuesday.

"I'm very glad that we're moving some really strong services here and I think they'll go on thriving and hopefully delivering even higher quality when they get here."

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