EAMON Dunphy will return to radio this autumn to present the breakfast show on Dublin station NewsTalk 106, putting him head-to-head with RTE's Morning Ireland.

The Sunday Tribune understands that a deal signed last week between the station and the controversial broadcaster will see Dunphy back on air for the first time since resigning from Today FM's Last Wo rd show in 2002. His new programme will bring him into direct competition with Morning Ireland, the country's most popular radio show.

The deal will see Dunphy receive what reliable sources described as a "significant" sum of money. Economist and current NewsTalk breakfast show presenter, David McWilliams, a close friend of Dunphy's, is likely to move to a different slot on the station's schedule.

The acquisition of the hugely popular presenter is a major scoop for NewsTalk, which last April recorded a substantial rise in listenership in the Dublin area.

The move is likely to cause major concern for RTE after JNLR figures showed that its listenership had dropped to 26%. Any decline below 25% would be regarded as a significant blow. However, NewsTalk listenership is almost entirely restricted to the greater Dublin area.