A COMMERCIAL radio station was heavily criticised yesterday after it emerged that it had sacked six Scottish DJs and increased its use of celebrity presenters' programmes broadcast from London.
Smooth Radio Glasgow has terminated the contracts of several presenters, including industry stalwarts Art Sutter and Alastair McDonald. Craig McMurdo, Alistair Alford, Mike Marwick and Jackie Storrar have also been axed.
One of the vacant slots has been filled by Tony Blackburn, whose weekend breakfast show is now broadcast by Smooth Radio's network of six stations. Shows presented by Mark Goodier and GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips also feature on the Glasgow station's programme schedule.
The restructuring at Smooth Radio, owned by GMG Radio, is the latest in a trend towards programming networked from London.
Real Radio listeners in the Central Belt can already tune into Chris Tarrant on Saturday mornings and there are concerns other commercial stations will follow suit.
Norman Quirk, the former managing director of Saga 105.2 FM who left the station around the time GMG Radio took over and rebranded it as Smooth Radio, said the station's move towards networked programmes was "disgraceful".
"It is very sad," he added. "The reason commercial radio started and was so popular was because it was breaking away from the London-centric media.
"Pop music is international, there is nothing local about it, so the interaction between the broadcaster and audience is where you get the local input. Smooth Radio coming from London is not local radio.
"What we did at Saga was establish a station serving the needs and interests of people in the west of Scotland. What we have with Smooth Radio is a national station with local opt-outs. It is patronising to the audience."
Radio advertising revenues have fallen recently and industry experts point out that it is not only cheaper to produce networked programmes, but it is also more attractive to advertisers.
While another GMG Radio station, Rock Radio, launched last year, has so far maintained its local output, the company's other two brands, Smooth Radio and Real Radio, are using networking to attract national advertising.
Industry regulator Ofcom's guidelines allow commercial stations to broadcast networked programming for three hours a day during the week and also state FM local stations should broadcast at least 10 hours of locally-made programmes each weekday during the daytime and at least four hours at weekends.
Jay Crawford, programme director of Smooth Radio, said: " We are operating in a difficult economic climate. One of our strengths is attracting broadcasting's famous figures and utilising their talents to draw a bigger audience."