Radio 5 Live has a new controller, Adrian van Klaveren. This is of interest to me because pretty much whenever I listen to the radio it is Radio 5 Live.
No doubt he will want to make his presence felt and will be making changes soon enough. So it’s a good opportunity to have a look at where 5 Live has gone wrong and where it remains as good as ever. Scott’s post on the same topic last week is also worth a look.
I discovered Radio 5 Live in early 2001 when I began to outgrow the local music stations. The brash presenters and samey music began to grate to the extreme, and there was nothing for me to listen to. Scanning around the radio looking for something to listen to overnight, I discovered the amazing Up All Night and stuck with 5 Live permanently.
Before I start blasting right in, I should point out one thing that is so important that I will say it in bold red letters. Don’t touch Up All Night!
I can’t understand why the best programme on radio is shoved away at the arse end of the day. The programme is a fine mixture of laid-back but intelligent analysis of the day’s events and a number of excellent regular features.
Pods and Blogs, Dr Karl’s science phone-in, the etymology phone-in, Cash Peters (worth it just for all the awesome banter) and more are all practically must-listen material. Even stuff I am not usually interested in — world football, films, even Bollywood news — is perfectly enjoyable on Up All Night.
The advantage of Up All Night is that it was there on the first night of 5 Live and has been on for the best part of a decade and a half. Over the years, it has gathered up great features like a glittery tumble weed, experimenting now and again with new ideas and ways of approaching the slot. For instance, I remember the days when the hugely successful, 90 minute long world football phone-in was just a small five or ten minute slot about Brazilian football. It has evolved beautifully.
It’s difficult to imagine any of the other programmes on 5 Live, apart from perhaps Simon Mayo, managing this. I can understand why you can’t have a 90 minute long slot about Brazilian football in the middle of the day. The fact that news is happening all the time means that the daytime shows have to be more flexible. But that isn’t an excuse for them to be utter shit.
When I began listening to 5 Live I was really happy at first. I couldn’t stand Nicky Campbell, but given that I was still at school back in those days he was really easy to avoid. When he moved to breakfast I had to start looking yet again for a new station to listen to, at least between 6am and 9am.
I remember his first show on the breakfast slot. Ego-boy Campbell thought the whole show was his and kept on talking over his co-host. The frosty relationship between Nicky Campbell, Victoria Derbyshire and Fi Glover made for really embarrassing broadcasting and unbearable listening.
I have avoided the breakfast slot like the plague ever since. Inexplicably, the awful Nicky Campbell is still in the breakfast slot, still making a total arse of himself.
The rot began to spread over to the other slots. Once the excellent Fi Glover fled the station, allegedly unable to take Campbell’s bravado any longer, the morning phone-in slot went to Victoria Derbyshire. Derby-shite more like!
The decision was seemingly at attempt for the station to shed its “Radio Bloke” reputation. The fact that every single one of her stand-ins has done a much better job than Derbyshire ever could says it all. John Pienaar, Phil Williams and especially Matthew Bannister were a joy to listen to in the morning. But Victoria Derbyshire is just awful.
She so often sounds completely out of her depth. It is particularly cringe-worthy when she has to deal with a sensitive topic. It sounds like she read in a book somewhere that staying silent a lot is a good way to deal with a sensitive situation. But obviously you can’t just stay quiet on the radio. You have to say something as well. And she says the most banal things. “…It must be awful…,” she says trying to fake a quiver in her voice. No shit Sherlock.
A recent interview with Kenny Richey was one of the worst examples. Lots of silences and lots of “it must have been so difficult” interspersed with strange probing questions about the crimes of his fellow inmates, as if that had anything to do with it.
The very premise of the show doesn’t help. It is the stereotypical “Speak Your Brains” phone-in for knuckle-heads. It’s not much different to this video. There is a poll out today saying that no-one speaks for
The people who answered that poll can’t have listened to Victoria Derbyshire. And the irony of unemployed people complaining about immigrants getting so many benefits. At that time of the morning, you can safely hazard a guess that many of the callers are on the dole, and are also thick as pigshit. If this is what a BBC phone-in is like, I shudder to imagine what a station like TalkSport or LBC would be saying.
Thankfully, the rest of the day on 5 Live is okay. Simon Mayo is really good. I was never so keen in the past, but given that so many of 5 Live’s other great presenters have jumped ship he is like a shining beacon. Drive has changed little and remains as good and bad as it always has been. If anything, it has improved since Anita Anand became one of the presenters.
Sport on 5 is not my thing, but it will be there until 5 Live shuts up shop, so there’s no point complaining about it. I don’t mind Richard Bacon as much as some people, but when you look at the roll call of the slot’s previous few presenters — Anita Anand, Matthew Bannister, Fi Glover — you can’t help but think we have gone down a rung.
Weekends are just one long disaster zone, with sirens wailing and smoke pouring out of the windows. Is Homer Simpson at the controls? I don’t mind the sport. That’s part of 5 Live so you have to live with it. Besides, they do Formula 1 as well so I can’t complain.
But what about all of the programmes around it? Saturday morning was one slot I was always iffy about. Even when the quite excellent Adrian Chiles was presenting that slot, the programme was inexplicably dull. It seemed to be aimed at boring sport fans who fancied themselves as amateur Stattos.
It hasn’t got much better under the control of Eamonn Holmes. Luckily Adam and Joe are on 6 Music on Saturday mornings these days, otherwise I would still be sleeping through until 1pm avoiding all of the dross.
And just what on earth has happened to Sunday mornings over the past few months? I hope there is a good reason for Julian Worricker’s disappearance, because his replacement Gabby Logan is terrible. Logan is yet another one of those stars that the BBC has poached from another channel at great expense without even knowing what to do with her (see also Johnny Vaughan, Graham Norton, Richard Blackwood). Is she qualified to broadcast about subjects other than sport? It doesn’t sound like it.
Then in the evening there is smooth, calm Stephen Nolan. That was sarcasm there. This loud mouth just approaches every topic from the most controversial and inflammatory angle. His treatment of sensitive subjects has all the tact and subtlety of a bulldozer knocking over a child’s sandcastle. When you factor in the fact that Stephen Nolan is from Northern Ireland, I should think it is a miracle that this audio arsonist is still alive.
To be honest, the only thing that keeps me listening to 5 Live so much is Up All Night — and the fact that all the other radio stations are even worse.