A year-and-a-half after he famously won the coveted Gold Logie, Waleed Aly says he’s still misunderstood about his accompanying acceptance speech that advocated cultural diversity in Australian media.
Speaking at the launch of not-for-profit organisation Media Diversity Australia in Sydney on Monday night, the 39-year-old The Project host said “the point [of the speech] wasn’t that Australia doesn’t accept diverse faces… the point was Australia DOES clearly”.
And now it’s up to the media industry to acknowledge there’s a discrepancy between what we think audiences like, and what they actually like (which involves a lot more diversity).
“I’ve always thought, if I had to think of or be designing someone to be on mainstream television likely not to win a Logie, then this is what you would get,” Waleed joked, gesturing towards himself in front of an audience of media professionals from different cultures. “This is it.”
Last year the Channel Ten star defeated his The Project co-host Carrie Bickmore, winning the Gold Logie at Australian TV’s night of nights.
“Do not adjust your sets, there is nothing wrong with the picture,” he said on stage at the time. “If you’re in the room, I’m sure there is an Instagram filter you can use to return things to normal, it’ll be fine.”
Speaking on Monday night, Waleed said his Logies victory sent a loud and clear message.
“The fact that it happened suggests the audience’s head is in a slightly different place to the industry’s head,” he said.
“And really what we’re talking about is a way of bringing those minds together.”
The television star admitted that over a decade ago, “if you looked at TV, it was incredibly narrowcast”, and it could have been referred to as a “snowfield”.
“If you looked at radio, you started to get a little bit more diversity and if you looked at print, you started to find occasionally some people with scandalously long names.
“The less visual the medium, the more comfortable with diversity we suddenly became.It was extraordinary as a realisation,” he continued, though noted ABC and SBS were exceptions.
Going on to reflect on the current media landscape, the academic and lawyer said diversity on screen was mostly seen in reality television.
“Because you can’t stop brown people cooking,” he laughed.
“You start seeing diversity within the casting of reality television far more than you see it in anything that is scripted… like a scripted comedy or a drama.”
And the impact is greatly encouraging
“You have this diversity, and what happens is audiences bond with them and there’s actually a long history of people bonding with non-white faces on reality television shows,” Waleed continued.
What he isn’t a fan of is the media choosing to “package or quarantine our diversity into the role of guests”.
“This is not the kind of solution I’m talking about,” he explained.
“That’s someone being packaged within a category to come and perform that category for our amusement in periodic intervals and then going away so that the real people can get on with the conversation.”
What is Waleed’s proposed solution then?
“I’m talking about infusion of newsrooms, of talent that is on air,” he said, before adding, “and I don’t think there’s anything particularly that stands in the way of that”.