Entertainment & Arts

5 live 'should boost minority sports coverage'

BBC 5 live logo
Image caption 5 live has about 6.7 million listeners a week

Radio 5 live should provide more coverage of non-mainstream and minority sports, the BBC Trust has said.

The station and its digital offshoot Sports Extra currently offer news and live commentary across 20 sports.

However in a review, the trust found up to two-thirds of 5 live's sport output in 2010/11 was football focused.

The report added the station should spend more of its budget on news output in the future, to be representative of its 75% news output remit.

5 live and Sports Extra currently provides coverage on sports including cricket, golf, athletics, women's football, baseball, swimming and snooker.

The trust, which is the corporation's governing body, said while the current offering was a "good starting point" it felt the station could "increase its commitment" with a wider range included during peak listening hours.

"Although football will continue to be the most covered sport, other sports should receive more representation," the report said.

BBC management, in its submission to the trust, said 5 live would "explore the possibilities" of reporting on swimming, extreme sports and American sports, depending on audience interest.

'Sport network'

BBC Trustee Alison Hastings, who led the review, told 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire she did not think it was "sensible" for the trust to specify which sports the station should be covering.

"But certainly during the Olympics, and perhaps at other times, you will be hearing a wider range of sport," she said.

The BBC Trust carries out an in-depth review of each of the BBC's services at least once every five years.

It assesses performance, through public consultation and from responses from the broadcasting industry, against the service's remit and decides whether amendments are necessary.

The review found 5 live was highly valued by listeners, with a weekly audience of about 6.7m.

It said news coverage on the station had "breadth, depth, wit and intelligence" but said audiences were more likely to think of it as a sport network.

The Trust said the station needed to do more to raise awareness of its news output and re-balance the spending towards news instead of sport.

"We recognise that sports rights and high-quality sports production can be expensive, however we feel that the balance of spend towards sports does not reflect the station's role to provide 75% news," the Trust said.

'Non-news' features

The report added a small proportion of the audience felt that, at times, 5 live had too much focus on trivial or less serious issues.

The Trust said it would therefore like to see fewer "non-news" features in news programmes, particularly when there was more important news in the agenda to cover.

"Audiences really value the fact that it's not wall-to-wall hard news all the time," said Ms Hastings. "They like the tone.

"But if you're a programme that, maybe because of the time of day, is less likely to be doing more hard-driven news, you've got to think carefully about some of the regular features. Does that make the whole programme less 'newsy' than it's meant to be?" Ms Hastings said.

"It's great to see that 5 live's approach to news coverage and breaking news really stands out for listeners.

"We've set out ways in which we think 5 live could build on this to ensure that all of its journalism continues to meet the high standards that audiences expect."

A spokesman for 5 live said: "We are pleased the report concludes the both 5 live and Sports Extra are performing well and are rated highly by our audiences.

"We will now consider the detailed findings and develop the plans to implement the report's recommendations."

In response to the report, RadioCentre - the trade body for UK commercial radio - said it welcomed the BBC Trust review, particularly "measures to prioritise high quality news coverage and feature minority sport more regularly".

However, it added that the "modest" nature of the changes represented "a missed opportunity for the BBC".

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