23rd March 2014

Broadcasting to the nation since 1994: BBC 5 Live is 20 years old

By Mel Hughes on Sunday March 23, 2014

You’ve probably heard that BBC Radio 5 Live is celebrating 20 years on-air this week. It’s a station we’re all familiar with, yet we probably take for granted. BBC 5 Live, now based at Media City, aired its first broadcast on Friday 28th March 1994 as the home of news and sport on the BBC.

The network has been so influential and has shared many special experiences with people over the past 20 years. There has been gripping interviews, breaking news which kept listeners sitting in their cars after they’d arrived at their destinations and, of course, content which has changed lives.

Nowadays, I listen to 5 Live every morning on the way to work, since I got a portable DAB radio (a revelation!). However, before that, 5 Live was only associated with extremely important events for me.

For example, driving home, stuck in traffic with no digital radio and missing a crucial cup clash between Dundee United and Celtic which went to penalties (that was a white-knuckle drive for my passengers), I turned to 5 Live for the commentary. We lost, FYI. Political announcements, Andy Murray playing in Wimbledon and hard-hitting breaking news have all lead me to turn to 5 Live in times when a TV screen has evaded me.

The past two decades have seen a revolution in every aspect of the media industry and how we consume our news. We are now constantly being updated from a whole range of sources but there’s only a few we trust and I firmly hold BBC 5 Live as my most trusted source of news.

It’s not just breaking news and sports coverage – 5 Live has broadcast some extremely candid conversations which have changed people’s lives.

For example, former Arsenal and Celtic striker John Hartson spoke to Richard Bacon about his treatment for testicular cancer on-air which directly led to a young chap called Ben Pilling, 28, from London, getting himself checked out and was diagnosed with testicular cancer. 5 Live literally saved his life.

For the 20th anniversary week, the station is to broadcast a number of special programmes to celebrate, including getting presenters to host different shows and, in particular, Peter Allen to host 606’s football phone-in in an attempt to present every show on the station.

An hour-long documentary will be featured to give listeners an overview of the station’s highs and most memorable moments. The online forum 5 Live Changed My Life is calling to hear from listeners whose life has been changed dramatically as a consequence of something they’ve listened to on 5 Live.

Cable news established the 24-hour news habit and now social media and mobile phones fulfil the instant news needs of consumers. But, for the next week, let’s remember one of the first bastions of rolling news… the humble radio.