Jocks shocked by sacking as Talk Radio cleans up its act

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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

Talk Radio UK yesterday moved decisively to shed the "shock-jock" image that plagued its launch by sacking two of its most high-profile presenters - Terry Christian, former front man of Channel 4's The Word, and Caesar the Geezer.

Publicly, the speech-based national radio network was saying that both men had breached the acceptable bounds of on-air taste and decency, an issue that has earned Talk Radio UK warnings from the Radio Authority.

Jerry Thomas, who was drafted in last May as director of programmes to rescue the station from flagging ratings, said: "When I took over, I said I would not stand for anything that transgressed the standards of taste and decency expected by the public. Both presenters have in my opinion overstepped the mark."

Christian, once described as the "epitome of broadcasting inarticulacy", was reportedly dismissed after allowing a caller to make a lengthy attack on religious groups on his Sunday night show last month.

Caesar, meanwhile, has used his late-night show to justify his reputation as the rudest presenter on British radio and "a serial transgressor". The Radio Authority has received a total of 146 complaints about Talk Radio UK since its launch, upholding 20 - 10 of these related to Caesar.

When Talk Radio UK launched on Valentine's Day this year, it traded heavily on the perceived appeal of American style, confrontational shock-jock radio. However, audience targets of 3 million proved hopelessly optimistic as the station attracted only about 1.5 million listeners each week.

Mr Thomas's appointment as director of programmes in the spring heralded a radical rethink which saw an attempt to relaunch the station along the soft-focus lines of daytime television. Part of this has involved a determined effort to clean up the network's output.

By the end of July, weekly audiences had nudged up to 2 million. Sources close to the station suggested that the two presenters had been made scapegoats for Talk Radio's poor record of compliance with the Radio Authority.

Caesar said: "I'm shocked and saddened by this ... Complaints that the Radio Authority were receiving against me could easily have been stopped if I had had first-class production support, and my constant demands for a producer who was aware of the Radio Authority guidelines have been fobbed off and ignored for months."

The complaint file

n Presenter "Wild" Al Kelly was censured when it was said that he wished a caller "would get brain cancer".

n One listener complained about an item on Chad Benson's show which involved "tasteless references to a frog".

n Radio Authority informed a presenter told depressed caller to "piss off, you sad bastard".

n One ruling concerned a claim by Caesar the Geezer he had never had a complaint upheld against him. This was untrue.