The ABC’s 7.30 program is pressing ahead with plans to scrap the iconic Clarke and Dawe comedy segment and replace the long-standing double act with younger talent.

7.30 recently approached Chaser comedian Chas Licciardello to present a regular satire segment next year, dumping John Clarke and Bryan Dawe from the Thursday night slot. According to ABC sources, the mock interview format would have been scrapped and replaced with material similar to Licciardello’s work on ABC News 24 show Planet America and The Chaser’s Hamster Wheel. Crikey understands a salary offer was made to the comedian.

But it appears Licciardello — best known for entering a restricted APEC security zone dressed as Osama bin Laden in 2007 — wasn’t keen to fill the duo’s sizeable shoes. 7.30 executive producer Sally Neighbour told Crikey this morning: “I can categorically rule out any suggestion that Chas Licciardello will be doing anything with 7.30 next year.” She did not deny, however, that Licciardello was offered the gig.

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Crikey revealed last month senior ABC staffers were angling to axe Clarke and Dawe, who have been a fixture on the public broadcaster for the past 11 years. Although the duo has an extremely loyal fan base, some within Aunty believe the segment has reached its use-by date.

EP Sally Neighbour has been widely praised for making 7.30 more energetic since joining in February, with more breaking news, investigative reporting and edgier stories that appeal to younger viewers. As Neighbour recently told Crikey‘s The Power Index:

“We’re really keen to attract a younger audience … There were a lot of stories that 7.30 would have done in the past that we don’t do now. We do very few feature stories. We don’t do filler stories. We don’t do soft stories unless they’ve got a very strong human interest appeal.”

Last month Neighbour said: “Clarke and Dawe have a current contract with the ABC for the 2012 calendar year. There have been no negotiations yet regarding 2013.”

She says she has had no further discussions with the pair since then.

Comedy blog Tumbleweeds recently noted with some alarm that, unlike in recent years, there is no Clarke and Dawe DVD scheduled for Christmas this year.

The pair, who could not be reached for comment, joined the 7.30 Report in 2000 following eight years at A Current Affair and previous stints on 3AW and ABC Radio. The pair marked 25 years performing together this year. Earlier this year Clarke told TV Tonight‘s David Knox that “it’s a gorgeous thing that we do. We love doing it every week, we’ve never got sick of it.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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