LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kara DioGuardi, who made her debut this year as the fourth judge on No. 1-rated TV singing show "American Idol," will return to the panel for the upcoming ninth season, producers said on Monday.
But the fate of Paula Abdul, who has been on the show's judging panel since its inception in 2002, is still up in the air with only a few days to go before auditions begin for the new season.
DioGuardi, a songwriter and record-producer, was brought in to freshen the show after the Fox network's talent contest viewership began to slip. But with only a one-year contract, her future was unclear until Monday's announcement.
"(Kara) is a breath of fresh air, and her passion for music and her understanding of talent is invaluable," "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller said in a statement.
"Idol" producers renewed host Ryan Seacrest's contract last month for three years for a reported $15 million a year -- triple his past salary.
But they have said nothing about Abdul, whose talent manager said in July that she was upset about not having received a new proposal and might leave the show.
Auditions before the judges start on August 9 for the next season, which will be broadcast starting in January 2010. Judge Simon Cowell has cast doubt on his own future with the show after his contract ends in mid-2010.
Despite slipping ratings in the past two years, "American Idol" remains an audience juggernaut for News Corp's Fox with an average 26.3 million viewers per episode in the season that ended in May.
The show is seen in more than 100 countries and is a joint production between 19 Entertainment, a unit of CKX Inc, and FremantleMedia, a unit of British-based RTL group, which is controlled by media giant Bertelsmann AG
Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Philip Barbara