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

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - COLIN VICK­ERY AND ANNA BRAIN

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

Pic­ture: AN­DREW TAUBER

The Pro­ject's Walee Aly.

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