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ABC to stick with tried and tested format

The ABC will persevere with its evening news bulletin in Canberra despite a dramatic collapse in ratings.

The national broadcaster's senior Canberra newsman said yesterday that there would be no ''startling changes'', in reaction to news that the once-popular bulletin had shed more than two-thirds of its viewers in three years.

The Canberra Times reported yesterday that the average nightly audience for the news had collapsed from a nightly average of almost 47,000 viewers in 2009 to just more than 16,000 last year.

Sydney ABC publicists defended the bulletin's flagging performance last week but the corporation's ACT news editor John Mulhall took to the airwaves yesterday to tell Radio 666's drive program that there would be no major changes as a result of the poor audience figures.

''I don't think it means any startling changes and one thing we do know is that ABC audiences don't like change, or not big change or sudden change,'' Mr Mulhall said.

''So we have no plans to change anything but we will certainly be looking at what we are doing and we will be trying to get some quality audience feedback and we'd be more than happy to hear from our audiences.


''So no, you won't see any wholesale changes, we'll probably take some time to look at this, to analyse it and just find out how best we can respond to it.''

Mr Mulhall earlier told interviewer Melanie Tait that the accusations of diminishing local content on ABC TV news were unfair.

''We've heard accusations that we've ditched local staff, that we've reduced our staff, that we're not doing as many local stories as before,'' the ACT News Editor said.

''I can categorically say that's not right - in fact our local news team, and I'm not counting Parliament House in this, has increased steadily since the local news was first brought back in 2001.

''We now have a team of some 30 people putting the news to air here, 25 of whom are journalists.''

Mr Mulhall said that, despite the exodus of viewers, the corporation's research was telling it that it had the news mix right for the 7pm bulletin.

''We're not doing anything remarkably different than we were two, three, four years ago,'' he said. ''Focus groups have shown us that our audiences like to have a good sampling of international, national and local news.''

The news might even have fallen victim to the success of other ventures by the national broadcaster, according to Mr Mulhall. ''The only thing that we can deduce that it is our own success at the ABC perhaps which is affecting the ratings here, and that is that we're producing more platforms with more programs with different ways of broadcasting digitally and our audiences like that and they're going with that.''

This reporter is on Twitter: @noeltowell