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5 Live 'urged to focus on rolling news'

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TalkSport has continued its campaign against BBC Radio 5 Live, calling on the station to ease its "split personality" syndrome by becoming a rolling news service.

The BBC Trust is currently running the first ever service review of Radio 5 Live in its 15-year history, as well as reviewing its sister network 5 Live Sports Extra.

The consultation follows the Trust's decision to dismiss a complaint from TalkSport about 5 Live's output, despite admitting that it raised "some significant and valid questions".

The BBC's governing body ruled that 5 Live was fulfilling its licence requirement to provide 75% of news output, and also rejected TalkSport's complaint about a lack of coverage of minority and secondary sports on the station.

Moz Dee, the programme director of TalkSport and a former managing editor of Radio 5 Live, said that 5 Live is a "great station" and he is "very proud" to be part of its history.

However, he argued that the network is suffering from a crisis of identity, with its news output often falling short of meeting the needs of listeners.

Writing on The Guardian's Organ Grinder blog, he said: "Are interviews with TV stars, a presenter anecdote about a promise made under the influence of alcohol and a football phone-in suggesting that Millwall be banned from FA Cup, the job of a BBC news channel with an annual budget of £72m? Is Radio 5 Live even a news channel?

"Depending on who you talk to, Radio 5 Live is a news channel, a sports channel, a talk service or a populist speech channel. A unique offering for licence fee payers? Or a channel that reacts to the commercial sector and chases audience?"

He added: "The split personality of Radio 5 Live creates a challenge for BBC management. As its managing editor along with the then controller Bob Shennan, for whom I have huge respect, I had to juggle colleagues in BBC News and BBC Sport who often had conflicting but equally compelling ideas about editorial. I like to think that most of the time we got it right.

"Since then things have changed again, as it's right that they should. The question is, have these changes strengthened Radio 5 Live's news offering within a crowded radio market?"

Dee urged the public not to view TalkSport's objections to Radio 5 Live as "merely ramblings from an obsessed commercial competitor".

He pointed to recent research from BritainThinks and commissioned by TalkSport as indicating that 5 Live's listeners feel that just 38% of the station's output represents news. More than half of the respondents wanted 5 Live to focus on being a proper news provider.

The research has been submitted to the BBC Trust's review of 5 Live, which will seek licence fee payer views on the station's "quality, distinctiveness and value for money".

Dee thinks that 5 Live has a "unique opportunity" to become a rolling national news service, "growing a broader radio audience for the BBC's world-class journalism".

"Whilst driving across the country the other night my passengers and I scanned the dial for news of what was happening in the Arab world after a heated debate on the subject," he said.

"Two national radio stations were competing with sports output (one of them being TalkSport), there was classical music to soothe the soul, specialist music shows, local radio, an interesting documentary, but nowhere could we find a real time national news service.

"Radio 5 Live has a unique opportunity to take that ground, to take news more seriously and grow a broader radio audience for the BBC's world-class journalism."

He added: "The BBC Trust has ruled that the BBC needs 'a more nuanced method of monitoring the proportion of news output on 5 Live', promising to use its service review to establish what should constitute news output on the station. For Radio 5 Live, this isn't a threat, it's an opportunity."

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