NINE Scottish radio stations including Clyde and Forth could lose their local branding under controversial plans being considered by former ITV boss Charles Allen if he succeeds in buying Emap Radio.
Allen's Global Radio group is said to be keen on converting some or all of Emap's 20 Big City Network stations to its flagship Heart brand, which broadcasts in London.
Such a move is likely to provoke a backlash in Scotland, where long-established local brands would be under threat.
Glasgow-based Clyde, the UK's third-oldest independent radio brand, was set up in 1973 and is now one of the UK's most popular local broadcasters through its Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 stations. Forth, which was launched by Richard Findlay in 1975, has a loyal listener base in Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians through its two stations.
Almost half of the Big City Network stations are based in Scotland. They include Northsound 1 in Aberdeen, Radio Borders, MFR in Inverness, South West Sound in Dumfries, Tay FM in Dundee, and West FM and West Sound in Ayr.
Allen, a Scot, is one of the leading bidders for Emap's radio station empire, which also includes Kiss and Magic FM. Global Radio is unlikely to eliminate those brands but could convert Emap's Metro Radio in Newcastle, Downtown Radio in Belfast and Radio City in Liverpool to the Heart format.
Emap chairman Alun Cathcart last week asked bidders for various parts of the media empire to table final offers by December 3. The radio division is expected to fetch between 400m and 600m, with consumer and business magazines potentially going for more.
Big City Network stations cover a third of the UK and boast five million adult listeners every week. A number of formerly independent Scottish radio stations have been given UK brands in recent years, including Scot FM, now part of Guardian Media Group's Real Radio, and Beat 106, now XFM Scotland.