A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1994

One of the benefits of a less stringent posting schedule for this strand of the blog has been that I've scooped up some of the coverage of the Radio 5 Live launch now that its thirtieth anniversary has passed.  Along with Radio 4, it's been my default radio station for decades, less for the newsier elements and more for things like Danny Baker phone-ins, Kermode and Mayo's film reviews and the multinational multi-events when I haven't been next to a television.   I still prefer to listen to their Wimbledon coverage instead of television, especially in the first week as it whisks the listener throughout the various courts and the long chats during rain delays.

Before I delve into the schedule for launch day and compare it to how the channel looks now, it's worth noting that my usual source, the BBC Programme Index (formerly Genome) doesn't begin listing programmes for Radio 5 Live until the 1st January 2007, apart from a documentary from 1992 which was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales but has accidentally been tagged with 5Live.  For launch day, you have to look at the channel under its original name Radio 5, which the day before was still running episodes of Room 101, Cult Radio with Marc Riley and drama adaptations of E. Nesbitt and Jack Kerouac.  Only that station feels like it would commission the radio adventures of the Pertwee Doctor.

As the clips below demonstrate the day began at 5am with Morning Reports with Jane Garvey, followed by Peter Allen's The Breakfast Programme offering a direct rival to Radio 4's Today from 6am.  At 8:35 is The Magazine, "Diana Madill with the network's feature pages" filling the slot up to 10.04 which the Genome says has Out and About until 11:15 (about which I can find nothing) and "a documentary about life in Britain".  The 11:15 slot has different content each day, across the week: environmental news, natural history, health/film reviews, science/video reviews which sounds like exactly the sort of thing a new station does at the beginning but phased out very quickly.

At 12, Midday with (Eddie) Mair, 2pm its (Sybil) Ruscoe on Five and 4pm John Inverdale gets to have his whole name in the title of his Nationwide show, in the drive time slot.  At 7pm "News Extra" sounds like a more traditional news bulletin before, at 7:35pm to its nightly sport coverage with a documentary about Tommy Docherty giving way at 8pm to coverage of a league match between Sheffield United v West Ham United (Sheffield winning 3-2).  At 10pm its News Talk with Niall Dickson (most recently the chair of East Kent Hospitals Trust), Night Extra at 11pm, The Other Side of Midnight at midnight presented by Tim (son of Bill) Grundy, and then Up All Night with Rhod Sharp had its first show.

Of all the stations, Radio 5 Live has changed very little over thirty years.  Looking at anniversary day, the names have changed but the relative chunks of airtime remain the same.  It's less "bitty" with personalities covering two, three or four-hour chunks rather than filling the gaps between pre-recorded programmes.  Wake Up To Money which began as a portion of Morning Reports now fills the entire hour at 5am.  Even the overnight slot has remained live, with various presenters, particularly Dotun Adebayo offering a phone-in/magazine show for four hours after 1am, a slightly modified version of Up All Night.  

Radio 5 Live

"In the spring of 1994 Rhod Sharp and a deeply talented startup team led by editor Simon Waldman and assistant editor Ian Parkinson were hired to devise a night time show for the launch of Britain’s first 24 hour national news and sports station, BBC Radio 5 Live."
[Rhod Sharp]

"Charles Runcie, an editor on Radio 5 Live when it launched 30 years ago, remembers the build-up to what was a brand-new concept in radio."
[BBC News]

"It attracts over 5m listeners, but it nearly didn’t exist at all. On March 29th 1994, BBC 5live sprung from the ashes of BBC Radio 5 which had closed down quietly the night before. That predecessor, with its strange mix of education, sport and children’s programmes displaced from other services, was not seen as having been a huge success. Unlike the other BBC networks, Radio 5 boasted no ‘stationality’."
[Radio Moments]

"5 Live launched at 0500 on Monday 28 March 1994.  Over the past 30 years, here's how we reported on some of the biggest news and sport stories, along with some of our favourite moments too. Plus our presenters reflect on what 5 Live means to them."
[BBC Online]

"On 5 Live’s 30th birthday, Heidi Dawson says more of the BBC should be based outside London to reflect the national conversation."
[The Guardian]

"I should remind myself that people do actually read this newsletter, and sometimes if I’m criticising something, I’m criticising someone’s hard work.  So it was that I got an email from the BBC, noting that I’d be in MediaCityUK and “would I like to have a look at the visual radio setup for Nicky Campbell”. Yes, yes I would. And so, I did."
[James Cridland]

Men Behaving Badly

"From farting in a birthing pool to rolling down a giant penis, Martin Clunes and producer Beryl Vertue remember the laddish sitcom that defined an era."
The sitcom transferred to the BBC in 1994.
[The Guardian]

"Tonight, the 1990s sitcom whose title spelled out exactly what the audience saw: Men Behaving Badly, featuring contributions from producer Beryl Vertue, writer Simon Nye and stars Martin Clunes and Leslie Ash."
[BBC Sounds]

The Fast Show

"The first episode of BBC TV's The Fast Show in 1994 had 27 sketches in just half an hour.  Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, former writers for Harry Enfield, created a concept which re-invigorated the sketch show format and crammed it with catch-phrases.  Sue MacGregor brings the cast back together to reflect on the series which launched their careers."
[BBC Sounds]

"The tailors were based on a guy who worked in a shop I went to as a teenager. His hand would go into your waistband and he’d say, “Oooh – a bit roomy in there!” My mum never liked those sketches’."
[The Guardian]

"One of my favourite things about The Fast Show is how many different textures it has."
About how the look of the Foreign News Sketches was achieved.
[Dirty Feed]


"Filmed in September 1993, this documentary is about young boys starting boarding prep school. It features Nick Duffell of Boarding School Survivors talking about surviving boarding school and his work with former boarders."
[Boarding School Survivors Support]


"Kirsty Wark brings together the cast of The Day Today. First broadcast in 1994, this six-part comedy lampooned the bombast of TV news."
[BBC Sounds]

"In the first of a new regular column looking back at the singular weirdness of the 1990s, Graham Williamson explores Roger Corman's takeover of BBC Two from December 1994 to bring us Weird Night. Welcome to Weird '90s..."
[Horrified Magazine]

"Explores tales of pressure and accusations of underhand dealings as she gathers together five key players in the foundation of the UK National Lottery."
[BBC Sounds]

"Fifty years after episode one was shown on ITV, the geek fest that is University Challenge has not only survived but also flourished."
[BBC Sounds]

"I get the idea with this project that I’m not really supposed to have favourites. The whole point is to celebrate a range of BBC programmes across the decades. Having a best one is a bit naughty, really. But on a good day, Smashie and Nicey – the End of an Era stands as my favourite TV show ever made. It somehow seems to represent everything that television can do as a medium, in 45 minutes of utter joy."
[Dirty Feed]

"Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman hear the inside story of Britain’s biggest TV comedies."
[BBC Sounds]


"The internet is not short of praise for Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era (TX: 4/4/94). This is not surprising, given that it’s their masterwork. What the internet is short of, mind, is going through End of an Era with a fine toothcomb, and picking out bits of obscure production detail."
[Dirty Feed]

"On November 26th 1992 Michael Checkland and John Birt presented Extending Choice, a document that had been carefully constructed after wide consultation across the whole of the BBC.  Before the final draft was agreed, it had been read and authorised by the Governors.  Nearly three years later we set for the BBC then and now how far they have been fulfilled."
[World Radio History]