BBC Radio 5 Live (also known as just 5 Live) is the BBC's national radio service that specialises in live BBC News, phone-ins, interviews and sports commentaries. It is the principal radio station covering sport in the United Kingdom, broadcasting virtually all major sports events staged in the UK or involving British competitors.
Radio 5 Live was launched in March 1994 as a repositioning of the original Radio 5, which was launched on 27 August 1990. It is transmitted via analogue radio in AM on medium wave 693 and 909 kHz and digitally via digital radio, television and via an Internet stream. Due to rights restrictions, coverage of some events (in particular live sport) is not available online or is restricted to UK addresses.
The success of Radio 4 News FM during the first Gulf War (1991) led the BBC to propose the launch a rolling-news service. Initially the plan was to broadcast a rolling news service on BBC Radio 4's long wave frequency but this was met with considerable opposition, both internally and externally, so the BBC decided to close BBC Radio 5 and replace the old service's educational and children's programmes with a new news service, whilst retaining the sports programmes. BBC Radio 5 Live began its 24-hour service at 5 am on Monday 28 March 1994. The first voice on air, Jane Garvey, later went on to co-present the breakfast and drive-time shows with Peter Allen. The Times described the launch as "slipp[ing] smoothly and confidently into a routine of informative banter" and The Scotsman as "professionalism at its slickest".
The news of the first day was dominated by the fatal stabbing at Hall Garth School in Cleveland, the first of many major incidents which the network covered live as they unfolded.
The tone of the channel, engaging and more relaxed than contemporary BBC output, was the key to the channel's success and set the model for other BBC News services later in the decade. The first audiences were some four million, with a record audience of six and a quarter million. Among the key editorial staff involved in the design of programme formats and recruitment of staff for the new station were Sara Nathan, later editor of Channel 4 News, and Tim Luckhurst, later editor of The Scotsman newspaper and currently Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent.
In 2000, the station was rebranded with a new logo which would remain with the station for another seven years. In addition, on 2 February 2002 a companion station, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, was launched as a digital-only service to complement the range of sport and to avoid clashes; previously BBC Local Radio stations and the long wave frequency of BBC Radio 4 were used. Throughout this period, Five Live gained several awards including five Sony Awards in 2005; the single gold award was for its coverage of the 2004 Asian tsunami in the News Story Award category alongside another four silver awards and six nominations. The station also began to further its boundaries with the publication of the Radio Five Live Sporting Yearbook. In August 2007, BBC Radio 5 Live was given a new logo in line with the rest of the BBC Radio network, and a new background design featuring diagonal parallel lines.
BBC Radio 5 Live broadcasts in AM on the medium wave frequencies 693 and 909 kHz nationally, with the frequency 990 kHz used at Cardigan Bay; these frequencies had been utilised by BBC Radio 5 and were used by BBC Radio 2 previously. Uniquely to the BBC Radio network, it is the only station that is neither purely digital (such as 1Xtra, Radio 4 Extra and 6 Music) nor broadcast in analogue FM. It is however broadcast in stereo on FM & DAB on BBC Local Radio overnight, usually from 1 am until BBC Local Radio commences morning broadcasts, usually from 5 am. BBC Radio 5 Live is also broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru in stereo from 1 am until 5:30 am and on BBC Radio Scotland from 1 am until 6 am. In addition to the AM output, the station also broadcasts digitally in mono on DAB Digital Radio, and on television through satellite services such as Sky, cable services such as Virgin Media, DTT services such as Freeview, Freesat (on Channel 705) and through IPTV. The station also broadcasts programmes live through the BBC Online website and the BBC iPlayer sub-site, which allows replaying programmes up to a week after the original broadcast. The service is also available on the Radioplayer internet site partially run by the BBC. Before the launch of digital broadcasting, BBC Radio 5 Live had broadcast on analogue satellite with near-FM quality.
For many years, the station operated from four floors within the News Centre at BBC Television Centre, because of the close connections between the station and BBC News, and the co-location of BBC Sport. However, as part of the corporation's plan to sell off Television Centre, the decision was made in 2008 to move BBC Radio 5 Live to the new broadcast hub at MediaCityUK. The move itself began in September 2011 and took two months. The new studios occupy a single floor in Quay House, with two studios large enough for several guests and a separate studio for large groups.
BBC Radio 5 Live's remit includes broadcasting rolling news and transmitting news as it breaks. The BBC's policy for major breaking news events revolves around a priority list. With UK news, the correspondent first records a "generic minute" summary (for use by all stations and channels); the subsequent priority is to report on Radio 5 Live, then the BBC News Channel, and then any other programmes that are on air. For foreign news, first a "generic minute" is recorded, then reports are to World Service radio, then the reporter talks to any other programmes that are on air.[needs update]
BBC Radio 5 Live broadcasts an extremely wide range of sports and covers all the major sporting events, mostly under its flagship sports banner 5 Live Sport. Whilst football commentaries form the majority of live commentaries during the football season, the range of events covered by the station include:
5 Live Sports Extra
As 5 Live cannot accommodate all of the sports which they have rights to broadcast, some are covered on sister station Sports Extra, including:
Sports Extra typically emphasizes full broadcasts of Premier League and Home Nations football, if games overlap each other. Five Live carries the first-choice match in such cases.
Despite the fact that commercial stations (such as Sky Sports) have acquired the vast majority of sports television broadcasting rights in the UK, the BBC remains dominant in radio sport with BBC Radio 5 Live and its local radio stations. Its main commercial rival for radio sports rights is TalkSport.
When BBC 5 Live Sports Extra is on air on DAB, BBC Radio 4 DAB goes into mono as it has to hand over 48kbps to the Sports channel and its bit rate drops from 128kbps Stereo to 80kbps mono. Radio 4's FM service is unaffected however and continues in stereo.