7 April ~ The media interest in shake-ups at BBC radio has focused on Radio Two, where Chris Evans replaced the departing Terry Wogan. But there have also been changes at Radio Five Live, many of which – no doubt to the delight of its controller – have escaped wider attention. Since Adrian van Klaveran took charge in 2008, the station has been on a downward spiral in terms of content, journalistic standards and the quality of presenters. A large amount of the station's output is anchored by Colin Murray, who cut his teeth as a Radio One DJ. Murray admits to liking NFL football and WWE wrestling and on his efforts to date, knows sod all about football or the way people in it operate.

Murray's appointment is indicative of the quite astonishing reversal in the quality of the radio station's output. Avid listener as I was, I'm all for blooding new talent but the controller seems to think that if you were reasonably good at kicking a ball, rowing a boat, running fast in a straight line or being a Radio One DJ you are a shoo-in for a broadcasting job. Robbie Savage is the latest. At the Beeb, they probably think he's funny, off the wall, edgy. He's not. He's just not very bright.

The bar is not set very high for "expert summarisers" given that Stan Collymore preceded Savage and Sally Gunnell was once an athletics commentator, but you'd think they'd know better with presenters. Eleanor Oldroyd is widely regarded as one of the very best presenters on Five Live. Last season, her Sunday lunchtime interviews with managers past and present was compelling. She has since been dropped to Thursday night with Murray taking over the weekends, accompanied on Fridays by Perry Groves and on Saturday mornings by a bunch of people you have never heard of shouting at each other. They call it "Fighting Talk". "The Pits" would be better.

But for Five Live there are more problems on the horizon. The Premier League recently awarded Five Live the rights to four of the seven broadcasting packages on offer for the next three years, two fewer than it currently has. Predictably TalkSport have two but it was a surprise that Absolute Radio won the second-choice Saturday afternoon games. Absolute was once known as Virgin Radio, which was traditionally quite strong in the south-east. So it seems a strange choice, as second-choice matches are almost certainly going to involve teams who don't have a very large following outside the M25.
Five Live will no longer have a lunchtime Sunday game, which can provide more opportunities for "comment" – and even more Colin Murray. The other concern that Five Live will surely face is whether it hang onto its talent. The excellent Mark Saggers left for TalkSport and the occasional Ray Stubbs is now an ESPN man. Where are Absolute going to recruit from? There is really only one source. "Live football is a vital foundation for us," says Van Klaveren, "and we will be working hard to ensure we offer the best and most comprehensive service for football fans that we possibly can." Many will hope this will at least involve reverting to proper sports presenters. Mike Waring

Comments (21)
Comment by alter ego 2010-04-07 12:55:42

David Ginola, Dean Windass, Matt Holland, Lawrie Sanchez and Steve Bull have all featured on this season's Fighting Talk. You might want to find out who they are before criticising Colin Murray for knowing sod all about football.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-04-07 13:05:50

Then there is Alan Green ...

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2010-04-07 13:16:28

Not sure of the logic that admitting a liking for WWE and NFL disqualifies you as a football presenter. I usually listen to the podcast of Five Live Football Daily and generally it's a decent listen. One gripe I have is how they seem to have started padding it out with callers. If I wanted the opinion of supporters, I'd get the 606 podcast.

I think, as a public service broadcaster, Five Live does have a duty to cover events across the divisions more equally. It's a symptom of the mass media in general to spend 90% of the time talking about the big 4, which is tedious in the extreme. Despite its public service remit, we've seen with the imminent closures of 6Music and the Asian Network that there is pressure to pander to ratings, so blurring the distinction between the BBC and commercial rivals, generally at the expense of quality.

I have bee a Five Live listener since the mid 90s and remember the regular Football Forums they had, lasting for around 2 hours that went around the country and had a panel of people connected with the local football scene and an audience of generally well-informed supporters of local clubs. That was one of the best things the station has ever done. Whatever happened to it?

Comment by paulandrewparker 2010-04-07 13:24:41

Well no matter how poor Five Live has become it would have to plumb some serious depths before I ever tuned in to TalkShite.

Comment by George: Hofmeister bear 2010-04-07 13:24:59

A twat he may be, but Green is a perfectly competent commentator when he's not grumbling about off the pitch distractions.

However, having so much primetime sport fronted by Colin Murray is indefensible.

Comment by Stumpy Pepys 2010-04-07 13:34:35

Fighting Talk can be patchy, but it's usually worth a listen. How good it is inevitably depends on who the guests are; I'll always download the podcast if Martin Kellner or Bob Mills are on.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-04-07 13:43:38

Talking of Murray's other loves in the sport world is entirely relevant. Believe it or not, sports other than football are played on a Sunday and are due at least some passing coverage. As Murray is a fan of American sports (this week he referenced his fantasy baseball team ready for the new season), he was able to cover the Elite League Ice Hockey final with at least some amount of knowledge.
While a DJ on Radio 1 he would often miss shows on a Thursdays due to travelling the previous day to mid week Liverpool games, particularly in Europe, so probably has a decent enough grasp of football. I never thought I would find myself defending him, but some of this article is a little unfair.

Comment by SpadeCooley 2010-04-07 14:13:01

Mentioning that Murray likes pro-wrestling is an utter irrelevancy, but it's at least an excuse to post these photos of a) Jose Mourinho posing for photos with the McMahons and b) "The Animal Dave Batista meeting Italian soccer legend Francesco Totti"

ADMIN EDIT please try to use short links

Comment by sponge 2010-04-07 14:26:54

Smug! Everywhere you look, listen and read anything regarding football, it's drenched in smug and self worth. I'll occasionally listen to the Guardian and Times podcasts, but listening to Patrick Barclay falling in love with himself all over again for 30 minutes os often too much.

The fan podcasts, Newstalk Off the Ball and John Giles on Newstalk are about all i can stomach. Probably because those people don't see themselves as being directly connected to the game they're speaking about. Whereas the likes of Green, Murray, Lovejoy, they think they ARE football. And because of that, they seemingly don't that they have to put any thought into what they are saying.

Of course there are exceptions.

Comment by diggedy derek 2010-04-07 14:35:00

I don't usually comment on these daily pieces (excellent as they often are) but this one seems peculiarly cross-eyed. Stan Collymore is actually really good, despite his dodgy past: he's one of the few analysists willing to criticise players and managers. Robbie Savage isn't brilliant, but he's equally unafraid to cut against the grain, which is a massive assett in the consensus-dominated world of the broadcasting ex-pro.

It's not all brilliant, of course, but calling it an "astonishing reversal" I can only put down to fuddy-duddy conservatism.

Comment by johnnyo 2010-04-07 14:35:55

What a weird, half-baked article this is at times. Fighting Talk has been a staple of the Radio 5 schedule since 2003 and Murray himself has been presenting since 2006 well before Adrian van Klaveran's reign started.

I'm not a particular fan of the new 5live Friday night show (Perry Groves does my head in) but surely the most relevant thing about Murray isn't his liking for NFL/baseball etc but his obsession with football (and particularly Liverpool). This was clear for all through his Radio 1 days but more importantly has manifested itself for a number of years as the host/presenter of Five's coverage of the UEFA Cup/Europa League.

Again the Ray Stubbs comment seems a bit awry to the central argument - his main job with the BBC was to front TV coverage of sport. The radio was always a minor sideline and part of BBC's cross-platforming approach. Stubbs left for a bigger and better TV job.

The central point about 5live needing to return to using broadcasting professionals is one worth making, it's just wrapped up in a lot of ill-conceived evidence.

Comment by ian.64 2010-04-07 15:08:22

"I think, as a public service broadcaster, Five Live does have a duty to cover events across the divisions more equally. It's a symptom of the mass media in general to spend 90% of the time talking about the big 4, which is tedious in the extreme."

I agree. Over the Easter weekend, the Premiership title race, Champions League and other items on the agenda were chewed over at relentless length - a case of 'hold on, haven't we talked about this already?'. The threshhold of p*ss-taking tedium was the topic of Wayne Rooney, even down to the type of questions that encompass a bludgeoning simplicity like "Ferguson will really need Rooney at this time, won't he?"

It's as if there's a fear that talking about the lower-leagues will bring on a virulent form of leprosy. mind you, when Robbie Savage opens his bumpkin gob, that feeling does tend to emerge.

Comment by Paul S 2010-04-07 15:21:53

Losing radio rights is the best thing that could have happened to Radio 5. Sports report used to cover football, rugby (league and union), horse racing, athletics, motor racing - all sport in fact. Today it covers the football results, reports from the premiership and that's it. Then there is a live game at 5.15pm. Other sports have been completely excluded in favour of football and mostly premiership football at that.

Time for a rebalance?

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-04-07 16:13:49

I used to dislike Colin Murray when he was on Radio One but he has proved to be an amiable, if a little naive, presenter on Fighting Talk which I still happen to think is one of the best shows on radio. This amiability however does not translate to being a main presenter on the sports broadcasting on Five Live, he is a fan of sport (albeit an armchair one) and he tends to drift into giving his opinion rather than drawing it from a pundit. The 'experts' are there to tell us what has happened and to elaborate on events, the presenters job is to let them tell us, not join in.
6-0-6 has become a waste of time and, dare I say it, Danny Baker's Saturday show reminds me of what it was that made the original 6-0-6 so enjoyable. Today instead of being cross-division terrace talk and anecdotes it has become a bore-fest for fans of the big four to ring in moaning about the referee / manager / centre-forward / goalkeeper (delete as applicable) fronted by a succession of people who appear to have no knowledge of a) football or b) broadcasting, an industry wide malaise sadly.
What makes it worse for the station is that the rant-a-thon spreads to regular broadcasts, 5 minutes after the final whistle of last night's Barcelona v Arsenal game I was subjected to Gooners calling in slagging off whoever they could whilst respected pundit Graham Taylor tried to bring the discussion back to how good a player Lionel Messi is (love him or hate him, that is what Taylor is there for.) The BBC should realise that a good proportion of football fans don't want to listen to moronic calls for manager's heads or stonewall penalties, they would like to follow the game and let other stations play to the man down the pub.

Comment by Phoebe 2010-04-07 21:52:54

"I have bee a Five Live listener since the mid 90s and remember the regular Football Forums they had, lasting for around 2 hours that went around the country and had a panel of people connected with the local football scene and an audience of generally well-informed supporters of local clubs. That was one of the best things the station has ever done. Whatever happened to it?"

They had one a couple of Saturdays ago about Manchester United, and on Saturday, they're going to have one about Liverpool. Because fans of those clubs don't get enough coverage of their clubs.

Comment by Uncle Ethan 2010-04-08 08:20:43

On a tangent, I was surprised on a recent return to the UK that, given Five Live's high profile, it was incredibly difficult to find on car radios and faded in and out depending on where you were.

Neither of hire car radios picked it up on search and even when we did track it down manually, we had to keep changing between the frequencies in different parts of the country and frequently lost the broadcast to interference.

Given the nation's obsessiomn with football I had expected better for the main radio broadcaster of the sport.

Comment by tratorello 2010-04-08 09:09:59

Uncle Ethan, are you sure it was a problem with the reception? If there was a constant whining noise droning on interminably it was probably just Alan Green.

Comment by rockford 2010-04-08 10:22:08

Criticising "Fighting Talk" is like complaining that Top Gear doesn't have any journalistic integrity. It's a scrpited entertainment programme, based around sport, that is frequently quite funny. Murray, whatever his deficiencies in his sporting knowledge, is an engaging host. 5Live doesn't have to be wall-to-wall dour analysis, especially when I'm doing some menial task on a Saturday morning

Comment by The Dead C 2010-04-08 14:17:34

Problems, 5 Lives got 'em. But an hour of 606 will never anger me as viscerally as those 10-second "Today in the Betfair front room" ads that seem to play during every half-time ad break.

Colin Murray can be ok when he stops laughing so much at everyones jokes, but I cant listen to any of the evening shows he presents unless i subject myself to Total-Murray-Laughter-Desensitisation-Therapy for a few days. Fighting Talk is more than enough for me.

Comment by Fandango 2010-04-08 16:38:01

I can't stomach Colin Murray either.For starters his Northern Irish drone like, monotone has no place on the airwaves .It's just bloody awful. A person can't help the accent they were born with ,but he's on the air for F sake and makes no attempt to sound anything but monotone and boring.
The whole station is going down the toilet and I haven';t got anything good to say about anyone really apart from Richard Bacon who is always great, and Tony Livsey isn't too bad.OH ,Danny Baker.His Saturday morning show,for my money,is Radio heaven and the best thing on anywhere..and Radio 5 in their wisdom give him a pissy 2 hours.
And finally..Is it just me ,or does every female broadcaster sound more or less the same on that station?
I think it's a requirement that they all sound like Victoria Derbyshire.
Radio is so shit these days,Especially 5 live.

Comment by el gato negro 2010-11-16 12:20:00

Colin Murray's assertion on MOTD2 (14/11/10) that Sunderland's 3-0 win over Chelsea was "one of the greatest victories in the club's history" was, quite frankly, cringe-worthy, ignorant and patronising. If you don't know anything about football you shouldn't be on the TV talking about it.

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