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New Neighbours Executive Producer:

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New look for Neighbours

A NEW mayoress of suburban Erinsborough has been revealed.

Neighbours New Executive producer, Susan Bower is taking over veteran soap Neighbours, dismissing talk of a ratings slump in the nightly serial by pointing to "significant changes" to the show in 2008.

"I'm really excited to be working on an Australian icon," she said yesterday. "The talented people who have worked on the show for years have made significant changes which will bear fruit very soon."

Neighbours began in 1985 and was extensively revamped in June, with a new family, new sets, an updated version of the familiar theme song and high-definition cameras.

It appears to need the work. Ratings for the drama have slumped more than 7% from 2006 and remain well behind the sun-and-surf of Seven's Home and Away.

Neighbours is central to Melbourne's production industry, running 48 weeks a year and employing hundreds of people. Ms Bower wrote for both Neighbours and Home and Away in the early 1990s.

"I have the greatest respect for serialised drama," she said. "I never call them soapies."

A 10-year deal with British Channel Five has assured the continuation of Neighbours, at least in Britain. Long-time broadcaster BBC One dropped out of negotiations when series owner Fremantle Media asked for £300 million ($A696 million) over eight years, triple the previous price.

In Britain, Neighbours' ratings have slid from the peaks of the early 1990s, when up to 19 million would tune in, to around 5.6 million today. It is frequently the highest-rating daytime program, outside of news bulletins.

In 2007, an average national audience of 761,000 tuned in to Neighbours, with 231,000 in Melbourne. Home and Away drew 1.23 million nationally and 331,000 in Melbourne.


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