BBC threatens to sue rival over `talks' with DJ

The BBC has threatened Talk Radio UK, the new national speech network, with legal action over reported attempts to sign Steve Wright after his resignation from Radio 1 two weeks ago.

Mr Wright shocked Radio 1 when he announced he was leaving the station after 14 years, ostensibly to pursue a television career. However, his name has persistently been linked with Talk Radio, which begins broadcasting on 14 February and is believed to be close to signing a two-year deal reportedly worth more than £700,000.

The BBC's legal department has sent two letters during the past week to the new commercial rival threatening action on the ground that it was encouraging the DJ to break the terms of his contract. It is understood a warning letter was also sent to Mr Wright's agent.

Although Talk Radio is refusing to comment on whether it is even in negotiations with Mr Wright, a station source said the BBC's reaction was "laughable" as discussions with the DJ related to "a period of time when he would not be contractually bound to the BBC. At no time did anyone at Talk Radio expect him to be here from day one."

Although Radio 1 is resigned to Mr Wright's departure, it is unlikely that the corporation will want to give one of its prize performers to a direct competitor. Radio 1 and Mr Wright have yet to agree a leaving date.