Entertainment TV ABC axes controversial comedy show Tonightly
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ABC axes controversial comedy show Tonightly

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Tonightly with Tom Ballard will not air beyond September 7. Photo: Twitter
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The ABC has axed comedian Tom Ballard’s Tonightly show, declaring it is time for a fresh approach in the quest for younger viewers.

The show would not be renewed after its final episode on September 7, ABC spokesman Peter Munro said on Tuesday.

“Attracting younger audiences requires bold approaches and we continually experiment with new content and new formats particularly on digital platforms,” he said.

“We remain committed to exploring and developing projects that connect with different demographics.”

During its 150 episodes, the show has not been without controversy. Just last week it was cleared after an investigation into a sketch that described Australian Conservatives candidate Kevin Bailey as a “c–––”.

That drew criticism from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, among others, and prompted complaints to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi called for the ABC to sack the person responsible for the sketch.

But ACMA said the sketch did not breach its code of conduct. It noted it was intended as comedy, rather than being used for attack.

In February, in the wake of the Barnaby Joyce scandal, Tonightly unveiled an ad for a fake dating app for cheating politicians.

In June, following the death of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon, contributor Greta Lee Jackson dressed as a police officer to call for men to be subject to lock-in laws to protect women from violence.

Later in June, Ballard was forced to deny claims he had indecently assaulted an aspiring comedian four years ago.

“I have become aware of a claim being made about me,” Ballard wrote on his website. “It involves an allegation of sexual assault: an allegation that I completely deny in the strongest terms possible. It fundamentally goes against who I am as a person and everything I believe in.

On Tuesday, Mr Munro said Tonightly had deliberately pushed boundaries to inform and entertain.

“We are proud of the program and its role in supporting some of Australia’s best emerging comedy talent,” he said.

Mr Munro said the ABC would continue to develop innovative content on broadcast TV and digital services.

Ballard said it had been an honour and a privilege to host the show “even though we never got to be on Media Watch“.

“I feel so proud of the ‘work’ we made and I feel so lucky to have been surrounded by laughter and stupidity for an entire year. My sincere thanks go to the brilliant Tonightly team, the ABC and the fans of Cory Bernardi.”