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Afternoon show to be axed by RTE

The Afternoon Show looks set to be axed by RTE -- to make way for the return of Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh.

Staff on the troubled series are preparing for the worst as station bosses get ready to take the show, now hosted by Sheana Keane and Maura Derrane, off the air at the end of its current run.

RTE insiders have told the Herald that the chat show is set to be shelved by management in favour of a newly formatted series.

Mum-of-two Sheana Keane appeared to have emerged triumphant from her alleged bullying row with Blathnaid, returning to the small screen with new co-host Maura last September. It now appears it's Blathnaid who will ultimately take ownership of the afternoon slot.

Gaelgeoir Blathnaid (38) bowed out of the programme last September after five years at the helm, citing health problems. But now the All-Ireland Talent Show judge is being tipped to land her own chat-show next autumn.

Insiders claim the mum-of-four, who has been a staff employee with the station for more than 20 years, could even to be joined by her pal on and off screen, Trevor Keegan.

Since September the flame-haired presenter has returned to screens with a vengeance, travelling the country as a judge for the Eastern region on the Talent Show.

"Blathnaid is a valued staff member, who has proven herself with over two decades service to the company, so management are keen to find something more substantial for her when the All Ireland Talent Show comes to an end in March," said a show insider.

"When it comes to The Afternoon Show, they have tried everything from extending the programme's length to moving it to a later time but none of this has had the results they had hoped for. Its image has been irreparably tarnished by the controversy over the alleged bullying row between herself and Sheana.

"The powers that be want to start off with a clean slate next September and it looks like Blathnaid will be on board. It came as a huge shock last year when Seoige was axed and now researchers and producers on this programme are just waiting for the official announcement to come that The Afternoon Show has been chopped as well.

"That's the way of afternoon TV. It doesn't have a long shelf-life. Before The Afternoon Show there was Open House and before that there was Live at Three. It can't go on for ever and the reams of negative press written about it certainly haven't helped its cause," they added.

Blathnaid was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile a senior source within Green Inc Productions, the Belfast-based production company owned by comedian Patrick Kielty which produces the series, confirmed to the Herald that they have not yet negotiated a renewal of their contract with RTE.

"It is in jeopardy but then again it's been in jeopardy every year for the past five years," they said.

"We never know until after the programme goes off air. One year it was as late as July when we got word it was coming back," they added.

Those in power in RTE are not confident about the show's prospects however. One high ranking member of staff confirmed the future of The Afternoon Show is "under consideration". "There are some changes on the way but we are not sure what form they will take yet," they said.

When contacted about the possibility of joining Blathnaid for a new show, Trevor Keegan said: "It would be strange to go back but I've always got on great with Blathnaid. I've made no secret of the fact that we were friends both on and off the air so it would be great to work with her again."