Fifth of radio station staff facing redundancy

A PROPOSED restructuring of Scotland’s only all-speech radio station has resulted in six off-air staff – around a fifth of the station’s total, excluding freelancers – being told their jobs are under threat.

Yesterday, a series of meetings, involving station director, Matt Allitt, made it clear that Edinburgh-based talk107 is to have a new sound and feel to it which moves away from the model of successful parent, talkSPORT.

The meetings followed hard on the heels of breakfast co-presenter, Susan Morrison, making her last appearance.

It is understood the comedienne and newspaper columnist was told she was no longer part of the schedule, soon after coming off air, in a move which mirrored the weekend’s exit of Mike Graham – programme director and presenter of his own three-hour show in the morning – whose ties with the station were cut with immediate effect.

The departure of Morrison means all the day-time presenters from when the station launched in February two years ago have now left.

And also yesterday, in its annual report, UTV stated: “We remain committed to our target of achieving break-even at [talk107] during 2009.”

Although the company’s management insisted “UTV remains committed to the format of talk radio”, focus groups with existing, former and prospective listeners of talk107 revealed little appetite for the confrontational style of presentation that both talk107 and talkSPORT are known for.

Added a spokesperson: “Our market research suggests the people of Edinburgh and its surrounding area want someone to chair a debate rather than be opinionated. talkSPORT works because of its presenters having strong opinions.”

In future, the news and sport department will be required to contribute across programmes – for example, interview packages – not just provide bulletins at set times.

It’s also expected there will be less reliance on phone-ins and more emphasis on discussions, including on lighter-hearted topics, such as entertainment.

Allitt took over as station director, from Peter Gillespie, in November.

The spokesperson added: “Over the next fortnight, we hope to announce a new programme schedule, plus presenter line-ups and timings.”