Briefing Notes: Radio 5 Live and Radio 1 Newsbeat

Ritchie Cogan
Ritchie Cogan 26th May 2015


Chris Hunter, assistant editor, 5 Live Drive show     @mrchrishunter

Anna Doble, online editor, Radio 1 Newsbeat     @annadoble


5 Live

Radio 5 Live is a 24/7 radio station specialising in sport and news, particularly breaking news. The weekends are dominated by sport but the rest of the week has far more news than sport. The two  shows with the biggest ratings are:

Breakfast 6-9am (9-10am phone in show: YourCall) Runs Monday – Friday. Peak time is 7.30am

Drive 4-7pm Monday – Friday. Peak time is 5-5.30pm. For Breakfast and Drive items usually run 3-5 mins.

There is also:

10am-1pm 5 Live Daily – this runs mainly human interest stories and has space for much longer form in depth interviews running up to 20 minutes.

1-4pm Afternoon Edition – this is where they run features from the world of arts, books. Much less news based unless there is a breaking story.

10pm-1am Late – very free ranging and anything goes, no set agenda. Guests from the US. Tomorrow’s papers.

1am onwards Up All Night – surprising number of insomniacs and night workers tune in. Has no agenda. Recently ran a piece on biker culture in the US, for example, following the biker killings.

5-6am Wake Up to Money – this is edited by the Business team and is a good place to target.

5 Live is based in Salford and their preference is to have live guests in the studio. Failing that then the priority would be live guests down a quality line or in a local BBC studio. Ordinary phone line or pre-recorded much less good. They are a live radio station so their preference is always to do interviews live. Foreign language can be pre-recorded and then a voice over added. These are rare so the interviewees would need to be special.

Their main interest is in finding the people at the heart of a news story – so that they can give detailed first person testimony. They have their own team of reporters but if it is a breaking story (especially abroad) they will rely on the BBC News reporters initially until they have had time to send their own reporters. They do more UK than international news but cover all the major international news stories and any other hard news stories that would interest a UK audience.

5 Live’s audience is 72% male and 32% ABs, 34% C1s. It’s slightly older – average age around 44. Interestingly, most of its audience is not made up of news consumers – they don’t listen to Today etc. The regular news listeners will come to 5Live when there is a big breaking story. They have a loyal audience that likes the way they cover news. 38% of listeners are in the south; 26% in the north. The northern audience is growing now that they are based in Salford. They have 6m individual listeners per week. Their peak audience for Breakfast -across the week – would be 3.5m at 7.30am and 2.5m+ for Drive.


It’s the news service on Radio 1 and so is targeted at 16-25 year olds. There are two 15 minutes news bulletins each day, at 12.45pm and 5.45pm. The average age of the Radio 1 listener is 23. They also have short news bulletins on the hour every hour. Anna was brought in from Channel 4 News to develop Newsbeat as a digital brand so the online content is growing rapidly and includes lots of specially commissioned video content. They have a team of 35 journalists who have all now been trained to shoot video, stills, record sound, write copy and use social media.

They do a lot of explainers to explain complex news stories and key issues – for example during the election they did explainers on the first past the post voting system, on a hung parliament etc. They are keen to use animation. They have their own YouTube channel. Some of the pieces they commission can be up to 12 mins long. They are keen to run stories that have substance but are relevant to their target audience. They do a lot of music and entertainment but serious issues also feature in the mix.

One way of covering an international story – like the riots in Baltimore – might be to pair a young person in the UK who is protesting with a young person on Baltimore who is doing the same. They want to find different ways of covering international stories. With Nepal, they commissioned an artist to draw a comic strip. This was very popular and found its way onto the main BBC news website.

They also run feature items online if they think their audience will be interested – for example they have done pieces on self-harm, cannabis addiction, drag kings.

Newsbeat’s online coverage is not necessarily covering the agenda of BBC news –they are constantly looking for an angle that will appeal to young people or to find a young person at the heart of a story. They work on a daily news agenda – their main newsgathering effort is from 8am to 12.45pm.

Climate change – they are thinking about how they should cover it but certainly it is on their agenda given that the Paris summit is coming up in November.



For 5 Live, Chris suggested pitching to He is the head of news for 5 Live and will pass your email on to the relevant person. He also said phoning up may be more effective than emailing. Be clear on your top line and be opportunistic – responding to a story that’s in the news asap. Phone numbers are as follows:

Breakfast 0161 335 6501

Daily/Afternoon Edition 0161 335 6504

Drive 0161 335 6503

Late/Up All Night 0161 335 6502

If it’s not a story for that day then just ask to speak to the programme’s forward planning producer.

The main thing to remember is not to send generic press releases or emails. Give some thought to what would work for a particular programme. With 5 Live they want -where possible- people at the heart of the news. But you may find that they will interview different people on the same story at different points in the day – for example they may want your CEO on Wake Up to Money to talk about the financial aspect of a story or crisis; then at Breakfast they may want an aid worker giving their point of view; then on Daily they may want a killer guest who can sustain a 20 minute interview. Think about all this before you phone them up and pitch a story or guest. Also bear in mind that they are always looking for more guests who are female or who are young. Diversity is another issue to bear in mind.

If you want to target one show go for Breakfast – the show is the best resourced on 5 Live and the producers have a brief to think across the station not just to think about their own show. You will find that all the producers on 5 Live are more collaborative than on Radio 4 where the different news programmes are competing against each other.

Email pitches should have a strong top line and include named interviewees that you are proposing and who you know are available and easy to contact on the day. It’s useful to include a sound taster on MP3.

5 Live sometimes does a day devoted to a theme – GP day for example. They could do a Charity or Aid day.

When to pitch – avoid Mondays. They get a huge amount of emails from NGOs on a Monday. Also think about Saturday or Sunday – it’s easier to get on air on these days, and your story may run through the day.

For Newsbeat, Anna said email is a nightmare – best to tweet her or call the Newsbeat newsdesk on 020 3614 1110. Key contacts are:

Debbie Ramsay @Deb_ramz

Daniel Rosney @Daniel Rosney

With Newsbeat, the key is to find the young person’s angle or point of view on a news story – or a strong feature that will speak to their audience.

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