Thursday 9 July 2009

Fuzzy AM...

After the other months negative Radio diatribe I thought I would balance it out with a rather more positive one tonight. The obvious station to focus on would be Radio 3, but as good as it is I have to confess I hardly listen to it (although I am getting better. my driving station is, very unpredictably, Radio 1...). No I want to talk about what, in my humble opinion is one of the best, well balanced and informative Radio programmes out there, and yet, due to it's anti-social hours is known by few people, 5Live's Up All Night.

This may sound like an oddity. People too often have a very negative perception of night time radio. It's taken Radio 1 until the last few years to make anything of its 10 O'Clock shows with Colin Murray and now Nick Grimshaw turning what used to be a precursor of "the graveyard shift" into a success. The graveyard shift is usually the domain of either up and coming talent, sent to cut their teeth for a year or two, or washed up former breakfast show hosts who have in some way or another pissed off the management.

However, in an inspired decision, when creating 5Live back in the 90's the BBC gave the 'graveyard shift' to neither of these types of people. Rather they gave it to Rhod Sharpe, who at the time of the stations creation was a experienced Foreign Duty Editor. Around Sharpe they built up an impressive show which makes the most of the BBC's correspondents around the world to develop stories in ways daytime just won't allow. It sits in the middle of the two normal types of 5Live show, the sedate paced phone in and the frantic news show.

Sharpe himself is one of the greatest assets to the show. Some of the best moments are Sharpe's regular little asides, his short vivid description of four scenes of American life in the four time periods, just before the ABC news at 2:05, or his personal anecdote after the news at 3 that perfectly frame periods of hard hitting, proper journalism, or reports from far off places.

Of course one can't forget Dotun Adebayo, recently honoured with an MBE, who is in some ways Sharpe's opposite, his African inflected twang more lively and upbeat than Sharpe's soothing tones. It is he who marshals the weekly World Football Phone in, which seriously rivals 6-0-6 in my opinion. He's good at jolly, but also very good at serious and interviews like a dream.

All of this combines to create a vividly exciting show, one, because of its late time slot and long duration, can handle both the very serious, the very funny and the very mundane (in a good way). Its not like the night shift on News 24 for example, which is effectively the same stuff recycled every half an hour. Here we have news, phone ins (everything from science to sleep), interviews and so on.

I put it on to get to sleep, but I have to confess I usually don't (at least for a while anyway). Part of me really wants more people to know about it, but part of me likes the fact that most people switch off after Richard Bacon. It keeps it special for the rest of us.

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