Castle FM DJs boycott station after massive row
By KATE PICKLES
Published on Saturday 16 March 2013 12:00
THEY’VE all gone radio ga ga. Presenters at a Capital radio station have staged a walk-out after a furious row with management. The station’s top names, including John Leslie and Donny Hughes, are boycotting the airwaves at 98.8 Castle FM following a massive bust-up.
The spat has led to a mass walk-out, by about 50 staff, which has left it operating as a “ghost station”.
Desperate station bosses have been forced advertise for fresh talent on trade website Gumtree. And a police probe is under way after a complaint was made relating to the financial handling of the charity.
Former TV presenter John, 48, who made his comeback as a drive-time presenter at the station in November, said he feared it was in danger of collapse. He said: “It’s not good. It’s a ghost station at the moment, simple as that. It was going really well and it’s a shame it’s stopped now but it’s not appropriate for DJs to carry on while this is going on.
“If you are running a charity station then it has to be well run. I just hope that something is going to be sorted and we start again but it doesn’t look like that’s possible at the moment.
“I don’t think it should be lost to the city, that would be a real shame.”
Castle FM, originally Leith FM, was first established in 2007 and is almost entirely run by volunteers, broadcasting a mix of music throughout the week and specialist music shows in the evening and at weekends. At the time of its Castle FM relaunch last March, it boasted 200,000 listeners.
Its new £10,000 studio, paid for through fundraising and public donations, was named after Sir Tom Farmer, who was guest of honour at the celebrations.
But the station has fallen from grace after a row erupted at its annual general meeting in January.
Sources say two people were “forcibly ejected” from the meeting after an argument spiralled out of control.
“There were two people that were forcibly ejected, which isn’t normal. This is a charity and the people working for it are all volunteers – you don’t expect to have people removed for speaking out.”
Insiders say the charity has been struggling to pay bills and members voted to establish a steering committee to help.
But they claim this was rejected by the station’s chairman, Michael Templeton, who is also charity trustee and company director.
Calls were made for him to stand down but these were ignored and led to an “unworkable situation” culminating in the mass exodus last week.
The insider said: “The majority of presenters voted for him to leave the charity but his position was just to ignore the vote.
“It’s a horrible situation. A lot of the presenters say they are not going back.
“It’s so sad and I really feel for the people that have put all their time and effort into this station. Nothing is being broadcast and the website hasn’t been updated.”
The Gumtree advert, which was placed on the free trading site on Thursday, has advertised for a variety of voluntary staff. It reads: “Ever wanted to work in radio? 98.8 Castle FM is a local radio station in Edinburgh, based in Leith we broadcast 24hrs a day.
“98.8 Castle FM is now looking for new radio presenters/DJs, we also need help in the office. The positions are unpaid and are open to everyone over 15 years old.”
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We can confirm a complaint has been received and an investigation is under way.”
It is not known if the station is in breach of its broadcast licence conditions – given that it’s currently failing to broadcast any live material.
Mr Templeton and 98.8 Castle FM could not be contacted to comment.