The future of 5 Live

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 thick white working-class people.

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.


  1. Stephen Nolan’s voice is the single worst noise on the planet. You could use it to torture prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Eamonn Holmes is nearly as bad, merely replacing aggressive shouty ignorance with droning inanity.

    Lest it be thought that I just hate people from Northern Ireland, I should point out that Colin Murray on Fighting Talk is wonderful. Oh, and I’m Northern Irish myself.

    Rhod Sharp’s voice, on the other hand, is the single most calming thing in the world. As soon as you hear it, you’re immediately reassured that everything’s going to be all right. I really don’t know why he’s shut away in the graveyard slot; he’d be much better used, say, bringing peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict through the simple power of his warm, gentle, malty intonation.

  2. “Is she qualified to broadcast about subjects other than sport?”

    She’s not even qualified to talk on that subject.

  3. You are exactly right.

    I work for the Corporation and I wish I could put you on the radio.

    BTW – you are clearly intelligent enough to appreciate the World Service. Have you ever given it a try? It’s on digital & the net.

  4. I generally agree – but would note that Up All Night is two differing beasts. Rhod Sharp is great, Dotun Adebayo is – for me – forever tainted by one of the most embarrassing TV programmes I’ve ever seen. Sperm Bandits was Adebayo complaining that women (with whom he’d had unprotected sex) were doing so to steal his sperm to have babies. The programme was punctuated with odd sequences where purported kids appeared at his door (the blond Swede being a highlight) and any credibility he had was destroyed for me by this show. I’m with Kathry Flett on it (see,,706291,00.html ). Anyway, a quick google search for the show is very informative (among the TV reviewers at any rate).

    I also disagree on Adrian Chiles. What I most appreciated about his Saturday morning show was the news content – and the weekly contribution of Charles Wheeler (much missed on TV) – who Chiles let speak on any topic Wheeler fancied, prompting him with occasional questions. A view on geopolitics otherwise lacking on Five LIve from a master – with an interviewer who seemed genuinely delighted to be at the same table as Wheeler. When they replaced that with Eamonn Holmes my heart sank.

    Oh, and Fighting Talk’s gone downhill too – ever more laddish with Colin Murray (although at least he has the great martin Kelner – a radio original – on regularly).


  5. Alex,

    World Service is good from time to time. When I really can’t stand 5 Live, I have been known to switch to it. Not as a permanent destination though.

    Maybe I am expecting too much of a radio station. I want to be able to tune in a radio station at any time of the day and expect to hear something vaguely decent. In my experience, the World Service is either moderately interesting or deathly dull, particularly when it is a music programme or something like that.

  6. Stephen Nolan frequently ruins my late night visits to the kitchen. The man has no sense of tact, indeed he seems to think of the tactful way of going about something, then deliberately decides to do the complete opposite. Clearly somebody on the BBC thought it was a good idea, he’s probably a ratings grabber.

    He would certainly seem to be popular with the people that phone in to his show. Who are, unthinkably, often worse than Nolan himself. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Nolan just managed to bring out everybdoies inner caveman.

    I could rant at length, but I fear I’m beginning to sound like someone who would phone in to Stephen Nolan’s show.

  7. I agree with Doctor Vee; Victoria Derbyshire is really irritating. I listen to 5Live all day whilst working from home and she is so poor compared to other presenters like Simon Mayo and Julian Warriker (both excellent) . Also new woman at 12.00 during the week (her name hasn’t registered yet. Is it Kirsty Wark?) seems ok. Definite improvement on Victoria. Sometimes Victoria is confrontational to the point of being rude by not letting her guests get their words out; at other times she just ums and ahs for ages while someone else is speaking and then when it is her turn to come back in she sounds as if she hasn’t been listening to a word theyv’e said. Her presenting really can spoil what couls be a good debate. She ought to listen to Simon Mayo who is a real revelation as an interviewer- witty, polite and INTERESTING. Please can Julian or Simon take over her slot as I tend to do most of my listening in the mornings.
    Gabby Logan; again agree with Doctorvee. She has been standing in for Simon Mayo. Please do not give her a regular slot during the week. She just isn’t good enough. You do not need all these famous names– just good presenters. This is radio afterall, us listeners aren’t interested in the presenter’s personality or other thing they do, just in having a good listen whenever we choose to turn the radio on.

  8. really love Rhod Sharp and Doton Adebayo. and not forgrtting their USA contacts.

  9. There are just two contributions above that mention Victoria Derbyshire. Both are scathing. Now this I find extraordinary as so many listeners ring in to say how much they enjoy her show.

    Speaking for myself, I think Victoria does a very good job. It is difficult to control some callers who, once given the air waves to expound their views, consider it a licence to talk all day. Victoria, unlike some Presenters who I’ve heard standing in for her, is excellent in bringing the listener to a halt without being rude.

    In addition, she always appears to have read up pretty thoroughly on the subject of the day. Takes all sorts to please some people.

    Like most people, I think Simon Mayo is exceptional. The man is remarkable in making his point completely without giving any offence. Somehow, it is always worthwhile tuning in when he is on Five Live. One feels confident it will be a programme worth while listening to

    I am not a lover of Eamonn Holmes. He appears to me to be very limited, a great knowledge of Manchester United but not of very much else. Certainly the Beeb appears to have a thing about being sure to give Ireland a fair crack of the whip with its presenters.

    Stephen Nolan is another I just don’t cotton on to. He appears to me to love the sound of his own voice and is not backward in ensuring his own personal views on any subject are made well known.

    Its clear it takes all sorts. Some we like, some we don’t but then we are all different , aren’t we?

  10. Very much agree with all the comments about Victoria Derbyshire, (incompetence personified) Nicky Campbell,(Premier league egomaniac and poser) Stephen Nolan (one word, Ignorant!) As for Richard Bacon why on earth is this man employed by the BBC? He brings nothing to any programme, is rude, stupid, pathetically sycophantic to some of his 3rd rate guests and displays an alarming ignorance of virtually any intelligent topic. Is this man the BBC’s idea of its little joke on the public? Please get him off the air before you completely ruin Five Live: PeeTee.

  11. Richard Bacon is excellent – funny, charming, self-deprecating and entertaining. I have always despised Nicky Campbell – Olympic Breakfast on 5Live was impossible to listen to – but Stephen Nolan makes him look both humble and talented. Nolan is the worst thing to ever happen to the BBC.

  12. Youre kidding about Mayo you mistake his whinging saccharine style as an innate ability to tease the best out of interviewees.
    Move him to R2 with all the other former R1 djs.
    Derbyshire to 3 counties radio.
    Surely the phone in is dead…I have warmed to Bacon though and of course like all contributors Rod Sharp can do no wrong.
    Clone him for all shows please.

  13. I listen to R5 all day and into the night.

    Victoria Derbyshire is often out of her depth and you can hear her missing points as her attention is distracted. I agree her replacements out shine her.

    I have to turn Nicky Cambell off at times because his interviews are so cringeworthy.

    Simon Mayo and Peter Allen/Anita Arnand are superb and really brighten up my day. Mayo is obviously intelligent and has an understanding of what is guests are about. Obviously his slot with Dr Kermode is required listening. Peter Allen manages to show his personality while leading an often serious and frequently hilarious drive time show. Anita is the real jewel in the crown and is a really addictive listen. She was great on her late night show- the equal of the much missed Fi Glover.

    Richard Bacon has grown and grown on me and is properly in his stride now. Give his show a listen and he has now made it his own.

    Up all night- I agree with the earlier comments. Stephen Nolan is unlistenable and I end up giving in to my girlfriend and listening to cabby FM- aka LBC.

    Gabby Logan is very good, she is quick and funny when she goes off script and is a good foil to her guests. Can I also put in good words for Phil Williams and some of the TV/press based stand ins Gabriel Clark, Tony Whatshisname.

    So all in all my favourite station but with a few duff presenters that make the good ones sound better and the bad ones worse.

  14. i’ve been listening to five live since 1993 having previously been an addict of GLR’s breakfast show then co-hosted by one the best voices ever to grace a radio, Fi Glover.
    agree completely with Stephen Nolan and unless the topic really is riveting, i hit the off button. the man sounds like a half-arsed shock jock stereotype. (reminds me a bit of the equally awful Nick Ferrari who presented the 10 till 1am slot for five minutes in the late 90s.
    can i just be the first on here to say i like Nicky Campbell and he does a better job of the phone in than Vicky who i don’y mind although i agree her stand-ins have often eclipsed, particularly Matthew Bannister and Phil Williams.
    i agree with much written here particularly about Simon Mayo who i remember from his radio one days and has been a real revelation since switching to talk radio. also a big UP for peter and Anita and the brilliant Cash Peter’s. Now if Cash was ever given his own show that would be five star icing on a fourstar cake.

  15. I don’t see why so much vitriol is directed at Stephen Nolan. He has a harsh NI accent and his delivery is intense. But he certainly is no “shock jock”. That’s a ridiculous claim. Neither does he display the ignorance or banality of other talk hosts on 5 Live, eg Richard Bacon or Victoria Derbyshire. As for the latter, the sooner she goes the better, but it doesn’t look like the BBC agree. There has been a barrage of complaints about her, particularly on R4’s Feedback when 5 Live has been discussed. Even John Humphrys haspublicly vilified her.

  16. If Richard Bacon mentions ‘Twitter’ one more time on R5, I shall scream. Yes Bacon we know that Twitter exists, we know Twitter is available via a computer, and yes we know you’re on Twitter. But, please stop mentioning Twitter ever two and a half seconds.

    Oh did I mention I think Bacon keeps on about ‘Twitter’ far too much?

  17. Superb article my friend. I’m a long time 5 Live listener also and it has really gone down the kharzi in recent years. They seem more interested in creating news than reporting it. And as for Derbyshire, sheesh. Somebody put it (and us) out of it’s misery. Mind you, that said, I would.

  18. To me the best thing about Fivelive as always been Anita Anand. I love her sense of humour, wit and all-round personal charm. I creased up when she narrated, on her evening programme, how she had coveted a fellow pupil’s rabbit shaped rubber and had finally purloined it. Then the guilt set in.
    Also the live wine tasting was one of the highlights of my evening listening.

    She and Peter Allen work so well together on Drive and they spark each other off. Neither lets any mealy mouthed hypocritical politician or petty bureaucrat get away with anything. They both ask straight questions.

  19. IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT – DON’T LISTEN. Most of you are just trying to sound intelligent but you just come across as people who like the sound of their own voices. Get over yourselves!!!!

  20. ////////// —- David, let me explain to you about the theory of debate….

  21. I find this blog, hilarious

    I fail to see why the ‘writer’ takes any interest in 5-live, given that he ony seems to like Simon Mayo, who can be ten times more insufferably smug than Campbell. A good example is the monster that the Kermode / Mayo reviews section is becoming

    Victoria is excellent as her unconventional method disturbs quite a few of the contented interviewees, who often have a script that they want to follow

    Worricker was constantly terrible. Just because he sounds good and talks properly doesn’t disguise is that he’s an easy touch when it comes to interviewing and I’m thoroughly glad he’s gone

  22. P.S.

    And please the reason for the uncomfortable situation between Campbell, Derbyshire and Glover, is because the Victoria just happened to have ‘stolen’ Fi’s then boyfriend.

    This a recorded fact, not gossip

    I don’t think even you can blame Campbell for that!!

  23. Here I am in India in my hotel room and come across this blog. I agree with much of this even today. Up all night is great. Keeps me awake too long. Mayo was good with quality guests. Gone to R2 now. Drive usually good though Anita and Peter sometimes sound contrived.
    Go to R4 guys. Some good intelligent stuff there sometimes. Eg Desert Isand Discs. OK I am 44

  24. I used to like radio 5 a lot.I agree that it has lost its way and so just listen to the odd half hour or so. I find Rachel Burden/Phil Williams particularly ingratiating and Richard Bacon is like Cash Peters in a daytime slot! Radio 4 is probably my favourite station but 5 live is still a reasonable sort of alternative in short bursts.

  25. Really interesting read.
    Perosnally I really enjoy Nicky Campbell. I know he is cocky but his banter with Shelagh Fogarty (one of the best) sounds natural and is sometimes hilarious. I enjoy Victoria Derbyshire (and that is from someone who has listened to and loved Fi Glover since GLR days). Mayo grew on me (He got SO much criticism at the beginning and I quite admire him for sticking with it). I also love Allen/Anand (and loved Allen/Garvey) but find Aasmah Miah irritating.
    Can’t stand Stephen Nolan and totally agree he just wants to be a shock jock and seems not to understand he is supposed to be objective or the whining, cringeworthy Richard Bacon.
    anyone else?

  26. I cannot believe that I completely agree with (and have thought independently) everything that you have written two years ago. Why on earth is ‘up all night’ with Rod so late? And as you say ” Don’t touch up all night”!

  27. Rhod Sharp great…D A …Dreadful…Fi brilliant..

    When will 5 grow up..Is it necessary to still have all those jingles

  28. Radio Five Live is – along with Radio 4 – one of my favourite stations. I have been listening to it on and off for, oh well certainly more than ten years, mainly in the mornings and late evenings. I’m a huge fan of Nicky Campbell, especially and particularly for his sharp, satirical humour, general knowledge of world affairs and every day social and political issues. Victoria Derbyshire is good too. She can be a very tough interviewer, with her no-nonsense questioning, and like Nicky has a good all-round knowledge of sport and political and social affairs. I can though understand how some people criticise her occasionally for apparent coldness, which she I agree she does seem to convey a little of at times on some sensitive issues. Sheila Fogerty is fine. I thought she and Nicky made a very good pairing. Shame they were broken up. They were extremely funny together. However the one Radio Five Live presenter I can not stand, is Richard Bacon. I just find him arrogant, laddish and sarcastic. I try to avoid him like the plague to be honest! I’m no fan of Rachel Burdon either. She comes over as a bit dipsy to me. And Gabby Logan doesn’t cut it for me either. Oh she’s obviously, certainly very knowledgegeable about football but I don’t think she’s suited to dealing with other topics, much like the very laddish Adrian Giles! I notice he’s someone else, Duncan, we both disagree about! Like Richard Bacon I find him too laddish for my tastes. Now as for the late evening-early morning programmes fronted by the excellent Rod Sharpe, Dotun Adebayo and Tony Livesey. They are all well worth listening to. You also mentioned Fi’ Glover. She’s someone that in my view has almost ruined Saturday Live. I just don’t like her sarcastic almost world-wary delievery personality, and am very glad she’s now left Radio Four’s Saturday Live. Hooray! Richard Coles has done a great job filling in for her at times. Many congratulations to him for landing the job ‘permanently’ (whatever that means these days!). Oh and I frequently tune into Stephen Nolan most Friday and Saturday nights too, though one of his regular guests, Charlie Wolf, can be excrutiatingly annoying for, in my view, his over-conservative, right-wing views. I have to say that I thought Stephen dealt very well with last night’s very emotional ‘phone-in about the most recent Northern Ireland P.S.N.I. officer’s murder very well. His handling of Edward, the ‘former’ I.R.A. man, who was live on-air expressing some extremely controversial and insensitive views on that subject, was excellent. But something that is increasingly annoying me about radio presenters in general, is that so many of them talk so fast! Ah-h, the ‘joys’ of ageing…!

  29. I googled Rachel Burden as i have found it impossible to listen to her adenoidal tones in the mornings, and miss Sheila Fogarty’s intlligent humour, which balanced the extremes of Campbell’s efforts to be clever.Usually switch over to Radio4 – instant calm and objectivity!
    Of course S Nolan is abrasive and not much good for going to sleep to – I don’t need contrived controversy at that time of night!

  30. Victoria Derbyshire, ‘…It must have been awful…’? It’s called empathy, you muppet!