BBC Radio 5 (former)

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BBC Radio 5
BBC Radio 5 logo
Broadcast area UK - National MW
Frequency 693 kHz, 909 kHz (990 kHz in West Wales)
First air date 27 August 1990
Last air date 27 March 1994
Format Sport, education, children's programmes
Owner BBC

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

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 known as 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 9am on 27 August 1990, with a five-year-old boy, Andrew Kelly, uttering the words Hello, good morning and welcome to Radio 5. 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.

Broadcasting for about 18 hours per day, 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]

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' .[4] 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 regional magazine shows 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.


See also


  1. Donovan, Paul (1992). The Radio Companion. London: Grafton. p. 218. ISBN 0-586-09012-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Radio launches 2". Radiomusications. Transdiffusion. Retrieved 2010-05-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Sound Matters - Five Live - the War of Broadcasting House - a morality story
  4. "Radio 5 launches non-stop news". Newswatch. BBC. Archived from the original on 11 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-14. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links