Radio 5 Live is “suffering from an identity crisis and confusion over its purpose and role”, according to RadioCentre’s submission to the BBC Trust’s service licence review of the station.
The BBC Trust is currently undertaking a review of Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra, and the trade body for commercial radio says 5 Live’s “ill-defined and confused priorities” potentially swamps opportunities for new competition wishing to enter an expanding section of the radio industry.
RadioCentre is calling for the 5 Live service licence to be amended to emphasise its public value output, and for 5 Live to cease branding itself as an ‘entertainment’ station.
Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive of RadioCentre said: “In a week when news and journalism are in the spotlight, it is more important than ever for the BBC to provide radio listeners with the best source of impartial, accurate rolling news. Radio 5 Live is the obvious outlet for this, but its drift towards entertainment-led output means it often falls short of that aspiration.”
The submission argues that 5 Live has moved away from the public service principles it was founded upon, and calls for a reduction of ‘soft’ news in the 5 Live schedule.
RadioCentre says: “The recent axing of the midday news on 5 Live is evidence of the unnecessary dilution of the station’s commitment to news, and The Richard Bacon show, which is defined entirely as a ‘news’ programme, has at least one celebrity guest per show.”
The body is calling for 5 Live’s concentration on populist sports, most specifically football, to be reversed. The 5 Live service licence has an obligation to feature minority sports and RadioCentre believes this coverage should be expanded to at least half of all sport output.
Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive of RadioCentre added: “In no media sector is the BBC’s dominance more apparent than within UK radio. Given this advantageous position, the BBC has a responsibility to ensure its services provide the maximum public value and support a healthy and flourishing UK radio sector.
“This requires a greater focus on high quality news output and distinctive sports coverage that will benefit industry and listener alike – and less time spent interviewing celebrities, covering light entertainment stories and running phone-ins, which is the staple output of local commercial stations.”
5 Live’s only national competitor is talkSPORT, owned by UTV Radio, which are not currently members of RadioCentre.
Read RadioCentre’s submission to the BBC Trust here.