SCOT FM, bought from Grampian Television by Independent Radio Group a year ago, lost half of its audience share after changing its programming, IRG has admitted.

The switch from outrageous Scottie McClue to a new line-up including ''wee fat Bob'' McLennan coincided with a drop in audience share from 8% to 4%, with listeners tuning in for an average five hours rather than eight hours a week.

But IRG managing director Michael Connolly said more recent research showed that the station's new stars were pulling the audience back. ''The reason for the fall was that we changed the programming,'' Mr Con-nolly said. ''But since then we have interviewed 800 people in our own survey, and they are coming back.''

Scot FM dispensed with the services of controversial ''shock-jock'' Mr McClue last January.

Its daytime menu is led by DJ Mike Riddoch who while at Radio Clyde attracted one of commercial radio's top audiences, and former television presenter Alan Tyler.

Mr Connolly said Scot FM was now breaking even. But it ran into lower than expected advertising sales, due to the launch of Channel 5 and the split of the Scottish Television area into east and west, lowering rates.

Scot FM was reaching 16% of the population in the east and 14% in the west, Mr Connolly said.

The Edinburgh-based Scot FM is one of five loss-making stations bought by IRG, which was set up 22 months ago and reported yesterday on its latest six months. The pre-tax loss was #1.8m, compared with a #2.98m loss for the previous 16 months.

Mr Connolly said: ''The stations are about to stop being capital outlay and start providing cash.

''We have a three-year plan and we are right in the middle of it. Hopefully it should all be easier from now on.''

IRG is bidding for three active licence awards, in north-west England, south-east London, and Warrington, close to its one new licence award for the Wigan/St Helens area, where it launched Wish FM last April.

Most recently, Scot FM has linked with M8 magazine to bid for a new licence in Glasgow for a proposed dance station.

A trial station called 106.2fM8 goes on air from next Monday. Scot FM also owns the Paisley-based Q96 FM.

IRG has #2m cash in the bank, Mr Connolly said. Radio advertising growth, forecast at 11.6% six months ago, had come in at 13.6%, and was now forecast to grow by 14%.

IRG shares were unchanged at 81.5p.