TELLING IT LIKE IT IS
Waleed Aly was chosen to co-host The Project because he ‘was the best man for the job’ but that hasn’t stopped the critics
Why does Waleed Aly upset so many people? The 36-year-old is one of the most softly spoken presenters on television and yet he has a way of ruffling feathers.
Aly, who was born in Melbourne to Egyptian parents, is the antithesis of the loudmouth shock-jock commentator in his new role as co-host of Channel 10’s The Project. That hasn’t stopped critics from lashing out at Aly for his views, aired on The Project, on topics including the deaths of drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and lack of Federal Government funding for prevention of domestic violence.
A fortnight ago, Switched On reader Chris emailed, “is it just me or has anybody else noticed that The Project on Channel 10 appears to be morphing into the ABC’s Q& A, with a steadily climbing left-wing bias being shown by the presenters”.
News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt has labelled Aly “a long-time apologist for Islamic extremists” and “the model moderate Muslim, used by the media to persuade us we have little to fear from Islam but our own bigotry”.
Bolt wrote “is Network Ten aware just how skewed The Project has become?” after Aly voiced his opinion that the Australian Government must bear some responsibility for Chan and Sukumaran’s executions in Indonesia.
That controversy hasn’t hurt The Project. Since Aly became official co-host in late January, its audience is up 10 per cent (18 per cent in first half-hour and 3 per cent in second half-hour) compared to the same time last year.
“It wasn’t like I had to stare people down to give me a platform,” Aly says of his editorial pieces on The Project.
“It wasn’t my idea to come on doing that but it was something the producers had been thinking about before I joined (as official co-host). It (editorials) gives it ( The Project) a little bit of extra bite. It allows the show to talk about things … that wouldn’t fit into a short interview package/interview-type setup.
“It is meant to be good TV and people will find it hard to switch off – that is the idea. It has been quite flattering the way in which it has been received (by viewers).”
Aly had been a long-time guest on The Project and then Friday night co-host before he landed the fulltime co-hosting gig alongside Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar.
“At the end of the day, the reason we chose Waleed was that he was the best man for the job,” The Project’s executive producer, Craig Campbell, says.
“I think he has brought an intelligence to the show that is refreshing for us. He has an amazing ability to look at news issues of the day and pull them apart and put them back together.”
Campbell rejects notions The Project has taken a swing to the left since Aly came on board.
“Viewers’ response to Waleed … has been overwhelm ingly positive,” Campbell says. The Project, Channel 10, 6.30pm, weeknights
The Project's Walee Aly.