Ex-rugby star John Beattie to take over flagship news presenter role

A FORMER Scotland rugby internationalist-turned-broadcaster is to take the helm of one of BBC Scotland's flagship news programmes.

• Beattie's new show will air Monday to Thursday lunchtimes on Radio Scotland Picture: Ian MacNicol

John Beattie, who played 25 times for Scotland and now regularly commentates on the national team's big games, will be fronting Radio Scotland's lunchtime news and current affairs coverage.

BBC managers have decided to rebrand the long-running Scotland Live programme as the John Beattie Show as part of an overhaul of the schedule.

Beattie, one of Scotland's most respected rugby experts, will carry out most of the major interviews on the 75-minute show, which will be broadcast from Monday to Thursday.

The Call Kaye phone-in programme, fronted by Kaye Adams, will be extended by 20 minutes, while Fred MacAulay's show will be broadcast half an hour later than it is now, at 10:30am.

Good Morning Scotland, which was cut by 15 minutes earlier this year to accommodate the introduction of Call Kaye, will now run for ten minutes longer, ending at 8:55am.

The BBC insists the new Beattie show will remain a news programme, but will have a "topical discussion" format and will include more interaction with listeners than the current format.

Current presenters Bill Whiteford and Mhairi Stuart will still be involved, but have been effectively sidelined.

The shake-up will see popular presenter Tom Morton, who broadcasts from 2pm to 4pm, lose half an hour of his music show on four of his five days to make way for half-hour drama and documentary programmes, which were previously on air at 11:30am.

Radio Scotland's average ratings fell by 7.3 per cent during the most recent quarter, to about 895,000, compared with figures of around one million in 2006. Jeff Zycinski, the station's head, said a longer-term strategy would see more of a focus on "speech" programmes during the daytime, with an emphasis on quality music and sport in the evening.

The new lunchtime programme - which starts today - will be Beattie's first major foray into news and current affairs, although he recently stood in for Kaye Adams.

Born in Borneo, Beattie - whose son Johnnie now plays for Scotland - qualified as a chartered accountant after retiring from rugby in the late 1980s, before moving into the field of journalism.He has presented shows on shinty, athletics and badminton.

He will continue to host Radio Scotland's Saturday morning Sports Weekly programme with Katie Still, but will no longer present the Friday night rugby programme.

He said: "I'm looking forward to getting behind the main stories of the day, putting the spotlight on the issues that affect us all together with all the latest news, travel and sports from my colleagues on what is happening in Scotland and the world."

Mr Zycinski said: "John Beattie is a presenter that listeners love hearing from and he has interests well beyond sport."