BBC Radio 5 (former)

BBC Radio 5, a BBC radio network, carried sport, children's and educational programmes from 1990 to 1994.

BBC Radio 5
BBC Radio 5 logo
Broadcast areaUK - National MW
Frequency693 kHz, 909 kHz (990 kHz in West Wales)
First air date27 August 1990
Last air date27 March 1994
FormatSport, education, children's programmes

It transmitted via analogue radio on 693 and 909 kHz, and lasted for three years and eight months. The success of BBC Radio 4's coverage of the Gulf War of 1990-1991, on a service nicknamed "Scud FM", demonstrated the popularity of a 24-hour radio news service. A rolling-news and sport station, named BBC Radio 5 Live, replaced Radio 5 in March 1994.


BBC Radio 5 used the medium wave frequencies previously used to transmit BBC Radio 2 from 23 November 1978 to 14 August 1990. It owed its existence to the broadcasting policy of the Conservative government of the time, who wished the BBC to end its longstanding practice of simulcasting its services on both AM and FM frequencies.[1] A number of programmes, which were previously broadcast as opt-outs on one frequency only, would otherwise have been left without a home.

The station officially launched at 9 am on 27 August 1990, with five-year-old boy Andrew Kelly uttering the words:

Prior to this,[2] the new station's frequencies broadcast a long sequence of programming trails linked by Jon Briggs (one of the station's launch presenting team) and pre-recorded sketches from comedians Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson (consisting of the two larking about in the studio amid the strains of "Sailing By", and Trevor suddenly being cut off while he was reading his so-called "Ode to Radio 5"). The official first programme was Take Five, a pre-recorded programme by Bruno Brookes.

Many saw the station as broadcasting programming the other four main BBC stations did not want, reflected in a speech by Jenny Abramsky, News International Visiting Professor of Broadcast Media 2002 at Exeter College, Oxford University:

"The sports output from Radio 2 Medium Wave, all the Schools and Continuing Education programmes from Radio 4 FM, the Open University programmes from Radios 3 and 4 FM and programmes for children and young people from Radio 4 and some World Service output. This was a network with no audience focus, born out of expediency."[3]

The station was on air daily from 6am until just after midnight although initially, apart from sports coverage, original programming was restricted to key times of the day - breakfast, mid-mornings and on weekdays, drive and programmes for young people during the evening. The rest of the day was filled with simulcasts of other BBC stations and airings of programmes from the BBC World Service were also heard. This filler output was broadcast for several hours each day, including weekday afternoons and weekend evenings. However the station gradually expanded its original programming. First to go, in autumn 1991, were the simulcasts of other BBC stations and the broadcasts of pre-recorded World Service programmes although the afternoon block of World Service programmes remained until summer 1992. The 6am World Service news bulletin simulcast remained throughout the station's time on air.

The new network did allow the BBC to significantly enhance its sports coverage, especially in the later years. For example, during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, the network devoted its entire output to the event[4] and during the summer months, sports coverage was broadcast all afternoon every day of the week.

In 1991, Operation Desert Storm was launched, the multinational response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From 16 January, Radio 4's FM frequencies were used to provide an all-news network for the coverage of the war, dubbed 'Radio 4 News FM', or more popularly in the media as 'Scud FM' .[5] Despite protests from BBC Radio 4 listeners, the BBC mainly received praise for the quality of the service and the speed with which it was set up. Following the end of the conflict, Radio 4 resumed its normal schedule but the positive response to 'Scud FM' made the BBC commence a review into the possibility of providing a full-time news station, leading to the broadcast of a similar service on long wave during the 1992 UK general election campaign. Due to the resistance to any use of Radio 4 FM or LW frequencies, it was decided that Radio 5, criticised by John Birt as "improvised and disjointed", would relaunch as a combined news and sport channel.


The "old" Radio 5 signed off at midnight on Sunday 27 March 1994 with a pre-recorded Nigel and Earl sketch at the end of one of the network's Irish music magazine programme Across the Line. Ten minutes later, the frequencies closed down for the night following a generic BBC Radio News and Sport bulletin and the new Radio Five Live began its 24-hour service at 5 am on Monday 28 March 1994.






Former presenters

See also


  1. Donovan, Paul (1992). The Radio Companion. London: Grafton. p. 218. ISBN 0-586-09012-6.
  2. "Radio launches 2". Radiomusications. Transdiffusion. Archived from the original on 2010-08-25. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
  3. Sound Matters - Five Live - the War of Broadcasting House - a morality story
  4. BBC Genome - An example of Radio 5's schedule during the 1992 Olympic Games
  5. "Radio 5 launches non-stop news". Newswatch. BBC. Archived from the original on 11 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
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