Following weeks of speculation, ABC TV has confirmed plans for an early evening, weekday national news bulletin.

The half-hour ABC News – Early Edition will launch on February 4 at 5.30pm and will be presented by James McHale in Perth. It is the first national news program to be broadcast on free-to-air from Western Australia.

The bulletin will provide a snapshot of the day's national stories ahead of the state-based 7pm bulletin.

Gaven Morris, head of news content, says Early Edition is an opportunity to bridge the seven-hour gap on ABC1 between Midday Report and the 7pm bulletin and to utilise the content being produced by the continuous News 24 channel.

The announcement comes as commercial rivals Nine and Seven bolster their news programs.

Nine recently launched a one-hour news bulletin at 3pm, Nine News Now, presented by Wendy Kingston, to complement its hour-long 4.30pm bulletin. Seven also has a weekday 4.30pm bulletin, and has just confirmed that former Ten Network newsreader Helen Kapalos will host the Sydney and Melbourne editions of Today Tonight.

Nightly news and current affairs programs continue to be big drivers of audiences on Australian TV, in sharp contrast to the US. While Seven's national figures have been adversely affected by a sharp decline in audiences in Melbourne for its flagship 6pm bulletin, Nine, Ten and the ABC saw their audiences increase in 2012 from the previous year.