Radio 5 Live changes: return to Radio Bloke or 'no big deal'?

Jul 3, 2014

Victoria Derbyshire and Shelagh Fogarty replaced by men, sparking debate over number of women on air

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

BBC Radio 5 Live has come under fire for replacing some of its biggest female stars with men despite the corporation's pledge to put more women on air.

Victoria Derbyshire and Shelagh Fogarty are among those departing. This will leave the station with just one weekday programme fronted solely by a woman – a one-hour Friday afternoon sports debate show presented by Eleanor Oldroyd.

Derbyshire and Fogarty, who present their own shows on the station, will leave in the autumn of their own accord, along with fellow 5 Live presenter Richard Bacon.

"Their departure offered the perfect opportunity for BBC bosses to fulfil Lord Hall’s stated aim of increasing the number of women on air," says Anita Singh in the Daily Telegraph.

But it has been announced that Adrian Chiles, Peter Allen and Dan Walker will lead the daytime line-up, pushing female presenters "down the pecking order", she says.

The Daily Mail suggests the station is returning to its old reputation of "Radio Bloke", a nickname once earned because of its lack of appeal to women.

Tory MP Angie Bray, who sits on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, tells the newspaper she was "surprised" at the changes given all that the BBC has said about keeping women on air. "It does seem 5 Live is becoming more and more blokey," she says.

A BBC spokesman has pointed out that three out of its seven day-time presenters are female, but that has not placated The Guardian's Ruth Barnes.

The BBC’s ability to get "more straight, white and male with every 'shakeup' is beyond comprehension", says Barnes. "Co-presenters are more often than not reactive, and in this case they’ll be reacting to a male presenter who must be assumed knows more or is the expert. God forbid they would actually be 'brave' enough to schedule two women to co-present a show – an immediate turn-off, clearly."

But Oldroyd, the only solo female weekday presenter left at the station, says it is "an insult" to top female broadcasters in male/female teams to suggest they are the "junior partner, some kind of fluffy, giggly sidekick". Also writing in The Guardian, Oldroyd claims the new changes are "no big deal" and rejects the idea that the station is returning to Radio Bloke.

"It’s a long way from a perfect world for female radio presenters," she says. "But Radio 5 Live is doing a great deal more than others to change that world. I wouldn't still be here after 20 years if it wasn’t."

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