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Bridget Brennan joins David Speers and Sarah Ferguson as top contender to host 7.30

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-02-14
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Bridget Brennan Photograph: Twitter

Three candidates have emerged as frontrunners to replace Leigh Sales as the host of 7.30 – David Speers, Bridget Brennan and Sarah Ferguson – as the ABC prepares its flagship current affairs program for a new era.

Speers, the current host of Sunday morning’s political panel show Insiders, and Brennan, the broadcaster’s Indigenous affairs editor, are two contenders the ABC is seriously considering alongside Ferguson, Guardian Australia understands.

ABC chiefs have approached potential hosts after Sales announced on Thursday she would step down as 7.30’s anchor in late June following the federal election – some 12 years after taking over from Kerry O’Brien.

Speers, who joined the ABC from Sky News in early 2020 when he was picked to replace longtime Insiders host Barry Cassidy, is understood to be viewed as a safe option for the broadcaster.

Related: ‘Suck on that, Kerry O’Brien’: the highs and lows of Leigh Sales on 7.30 – and who will take her place?

This is in part because of his two decades in the federal parliamentary press gallery as political editor of Sky and his reputation as a sharp interviewer.

However, Brennan – a former Europe correspondent for the ABC based in London – has already been unofficially approached about replacing Sales.

A source says a senior ABC figure discussed the role with Brennan in recent days and asked her to consider throwing her hat into the ring.

Ferguson, a longtime ABC journalist who has worked as a foreign correspondent for the broadcaster as well as prominent international outlets, has also been widely floated as a potential replacement .

Ferguson is without a permanent role given she has been unable to take up the position of Beijing bureau chief due to diplomatic tensions.

Laura Tingle, the veteran chief political correspondent for 7.30 who has become a regular fill-in host for Sales, is not currently understood to be a top contender.

However, if Tingle remains in her prominent role on 7.30 with Brennan as host, it could be seen to bolster the political credentials of the team while gaining from Brennan’s experience as Indigenous affairs editor.

Despite Speers’s senior status and the fact Brennan has not worked in a dedicated political reporting role, her experience across various ABC bureaux – including covering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for more than a decade – has her well-placed to assume the position.

Brennan – a Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman – has been a regular fill-in host on ABC TV’s breakfast program since returning from a two-year stint with the broadcaster in London.

She first joined the ABC in 2010, when she began a cadetship, before moving to its Darwin bureau.

Speers is based in Melbourne, where he moved with his family from Canberra to take the Insiders job. Sales has lived and worked in Sydney, where 7.30 is filmed, however, it is understood that would not be a deciding factor in selecting a new host.

Guardian Australia understands the ABC is unlikely to make an official decision on Sales’ replacement until after the broadcaster announces its new director of news.

The ABC is yet to announce who will take over from Gaven Morris more than four months after he resigned after six years in the job.

Related: Leigh Sales to quit as 7.30 host after federal election following 12 years at ABC’s flagship show

Guardian Australia asked the ABC if it had a timeframe to appoint replacements for Morris and Sales but a spokesperson declined to comment.

Stan Grant, the ABC’s international affairs analyst, and Virginia Trioli, the host of mornings on ABC radio in Melbourne and a former News Breakfast host, have also been touted as potential new anchors at 7.30.

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