Leigh Sales: from Lateline to 7:30

Leigh Sales is confident her big feet will fill Kerry O'Brien's big shoes on 7:30." link="/730/show/81067/summary.html" target="_blank" loc="right">

ABC's Leigh Sales welcomes the competition in news next year, as she takes to the chair of 7:30.

When the ABC's re-branded The 7:30 Report launches as 7:30 next March it will be in the midst of an increased prime-time news environment.

6pm with George Negus launches in the new year, joining the 7pm Project and offerings from Seven, Nine and Sky News.

But new host Leigh Sales relishes the competition.

"I personally think it's a good thing. I want as many news resources across the networks as possible. I think it's a great thing for the industry if people are thinking they want to beef up a better news presence," she says.

The former Lateline host will be the key presenter for the show, but political reporter Chris Uhlmann will also share the chair as part of a flexible arrangement designed to capitalise on news from Canberra.

"Chris will be doing what he's best at which is the 'pollies' and I'll be doing more of what I've been doing at Lateline, which is big international and national interviews. So it's not unfamiliar territory for us.

"We want it to be more flexible and more agile in terms of responding to breaking news as it happens. So we want the capacity to take it into the field, to be anchoring stuff from out and about and not just stuck in the studio.

"We also want more flexibility between our roles, so if I am particularly exercised about an issue, such as the Murray-Darling, we can say 'I'm going to go on the road and get some yarns, and then we're going to do the program next week from Griffith, and in my absence Chris is going to be hosting the show, and I'll be back next week with a couple of good yarns in the can.' Or Chris might be off doing a special project similarly."

Sales and Uhlmann will replace Kerry O'Brien, who has ended his association with the show after 15 years.

When it hits the "refresh" button under a new executive producer, the format is expected to utilise shorter stories, more graphics and a response to breaking news. Regulars including John Clarke and Brian Dawe will remain, while online political correspondent Annabel Crabb (who was so effective in Gruen Nation) will have an increased role.

Sales is determined that others with expertise are given their moment to shine, such as during the upcoming NSW State Election.

"I do not want the program to be centred around me because I happen to be the person sitting in the Sydney seat," she says.

"There's people who know more about NSW politics than I do and I'm very happy for them to be front and centre on that."

And as for filling the rather large shoes of one Kerry O'Brien?

"We've both got big feet, it'll be fine," she smiles.

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