Second rate 5*

It has just about the simplest and least imaginative channel name possible. But over the years the people behind Channel 5 have still managed to regularly get themselves ito a bit of a tizzy over what their channel is actually called.

So for years, the powers that be insisted that you should just call it Five. Or better still, five, without a capital letter. It was never ‘Channel Five’, and it was definitely not ‘Channel 5’.

You see, ‘Channel 5’ was associated with trashy TV movies and the notorious “three Fs” (films, football and fucking). This image worked in the pre-digital era of the first few years of the channel’s life.

But with 101 trashier other sides available to anyone with a posh new digital telly, Channel 5 had to go upmarket. Which meant spelling out the number 5 in full. But without a capital letter. Or the word ‘channel’ in front of it.

This was despite the fact that it was impossible to seriously talk about it this way. Saying to someone that you “saw a really good programme on five” would leave them staring at you in confusion — and not just because Channel 5 has no good programmes.

Still, I guess everyone just about got used to it after about nine years. That must be why new owner Richard Desmond has decided that it is better just to call it ‘Channel 5’ after all.

The branding brouhaha extends also to Channel 5’s digital channels. Even the relatively simple ‘Five US’ has been changed in the past to become ‘Five USA’. Now it is, of course, ‘5USA’.

Another week, another rebranding

5* logo

I noticed today that its other digital channels has changed its name yet again. It was originally launched in 2006 as Five Life. I guess that would be an all right name, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was extremely similar to the name of a certain high-profile BBC radio station. Whoops.

(Incidentally, BBC Radio 5 live is another station that would like you not to use a capital letter. The ‘l’ in the word ‘live’ is supposed to be lowercase. No matter that this looks really awkward wherever it is written.)

After a couple of years, Five Life became Fiver. It’s not clear why. It’s like a £1 note, but for the noughties! Perhaps £5 was the channel’s original programming budget.

Now it is called 5*, which is a bit awkward. The logo styles it as a nice five-pointed star, but in text materials an asterisk is used instead. Presumably you’re supposed to pronounce it “five star”, but it could as easily be “five pow” — I don’t know, and I am not prepared to watch for long enough to find out.

What does the asterisk signify? That this is just a temporary name and it might change again? Or is 5* a five letter swear word that you are provoked into uttering if you have to actually watch that garbage?


  1. See, I spent a chunk of last night distracted by that stupid logo floating in the top of the screen.

    Scary, isn’t it. How bad is the telly when the best thing to watch is a film I haven’t seen on 5*+1? Hancock, um, lived down to its reviews, somewhere in there was a good idea for a film trying to surface.

    (also? you need a comment subscription option)

  2. It does have a handful of good programmes to be fair – Hotel Inspector, Wright Stuff, Gadget Show and the occasional documentary. Hopefully Desmond won’t get rid of them.


  3. I have to say, I am far more worried about what Richard Desmond will do to Channel 5 than what Rupert Murdoch will do to Sky.

    Mat, thanks for the suggestion — I will look into it.

    Update: Hang on, do you mean the RSS feed? It should still exist. I’ll get that back up if I can, but will also look into email.

  4. 5* were never a good enough pop group to have a whole TV channel devoted to them.