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Waleed Aly and John Oliver show how globalised TV has become

On last night’s episode of Channel Ten’s The Project, host Waleed Aly explained in the simplest possible terms with calm clarity a point about ISIS which has been obscured by vast swathes of western media.

He made the point the terrorist organisation is desperate to cause divisions between Muslim and non-Muslim people around the world, and those who choose to vilify ordinary Muslims in response to ISIS attacks are making the situation worse.

The Project is not a great TV program and its contributions to journalism and popular discourse in Australia are limited at best. It’s existed for seven years now and despite its promise of “news delivered differently” it’s still suffering from an identity crisis (and its 90-second live interviews are never able to get to the crux of any issue).

But what it occasionally does well is these opinion-explainer segments headed by Aly (who is substantially better at them than previous host Charlie Pickering). There’s no doubt that Aly is an intelligent, clear thinker and communicator and with the slick graphics employed by the production team at The Project, these videos are massively share-able on social media. What that means is that The Project is able to reach audiences well beyond its strong but modest ratings (it sits mostly around the 600,000 to 700,00 mark, but fluctuates quite a bit).

Aly’s most recent segment has gone viral not just in Australia but around the world. The Facebook video post alone has amassed more than 13 million views and 400,000 shares since it was posted last night and that figure is continuing to climb. The video has also been hosted on several other platforms and has been shared and promoted by international media outlets. Not bad for a small Australian current affairs program.

Comedian John Oliver, who hosts Last Week Tonight works on a similar basis. Oliver’s two-year-old program is aired on cable network HBO in the US and has a far broader reach than The Project around the world thanks to international syndication. But much like The Project the show generates hype and reaches a massive audience through viral clips.

Oliver’s latest is a very different (and NSFW) response to the Paris terror attacks, which has been viewed millions of times on different platforms, but looks still to be eclipsed by Aly’s take on The Project. 

And it’s not just news commentary programs which rely on social media to get their content out around the world; this principle has been a massive part of how Amy Schumer has become the hottest comedy icon in the world right now. Schumer’s breakthrough sketch show Inside Amy Schumer airs on the cable channel Comedy Central and rarely gets more than one million viewers in the US. But many of her sketches are shared and viewed millions of times, such as the brilliant “Last Fuckable Day“, featuring Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette.

It’s just another example of how TV creators without the biggest traditional audiences are able to reach further than they’ve previously been able to via different platforms. It is, of course, more difficult to monetise content that goes viral than content that’s been broadcast to a huge audience, but it does mean that audiences are now deciding what resonates and what doesn’t all around the world in a way that they’ve never been able to before.

9 responses to “Waleed Aly and John Oliver show how globalised TV has become

  1. The bar is so low in Australia. Our discourse is so pathetic that this “viral video” (Proudly brought to you by Mazda) is considered revolutionary. Disposable news essentially.

    NEWS FLASH: Terrorists are trying to manipulate people with murder.

    We are an intellectual back water. This is the evidence.

  2. So if the attacks around the world were not sponsored by Isis, who or what inspired them. If they weren’t Isis terrorists were they just ordinary muslims following the tenets of Islam? Well that makes me feel a lot better. So any muslim,except our politically correct living in lala land Aly, could turn into a hate filled murdering terrorist like that piece of scum that killed Mr Cheng. Way to go Aly, it’s not Isis, it’s just ordinary muslims turning into homicidal maniacs in the name of Islam that want to divide the world.

  3. Can’t we all just admit that religion is the real problem here? Maybe if people focused less of their time on invisible sky people then we, as a society, could get on with the more pressing issues.

  4. Surely Waleed’s piece is up there with the best worshipping of rainbow unicorn farts? The proposition that Isis does this because it’s weak and can’t fight against regular armies quite flies against the history of asymmetrical guerrilla warfare in general, and Isis’s rather unprecedented success against the organised Syrian army. From that failure of analysis, we move to the corralling from critique of Islam by claiming all violence done in its name is not “real” Islam, and the self satisfying comfort of some people being able to simple feel the love, while those at the pointy end endure the pragmatic sometimes compromised choices that would actually be required to resolve the problem, the start of which is actually working a solution to the civil war in Syria. That such viral vacuity is only rivalled by Russel Brand’s gloopy don’t vote/revolt rhetoric and perhaps I suppose a sign of the time of reduced critical thought.

  5. Bloody brilliant and offering so much hope in the midst of these dark attacks – Turkey, Beirut, Russian airliner – and now Paris! Thanks Waleed! You make us proud to feel Australian! Let’s hope the warmongering politicians heed your words and stop satisfying the IS/IS objectives of division and hate!

  6. Waleed is a person vastly more qualified than you usually have to endure on commercial media……an academic and deep thinker on #10!
    Who would have thunk it?.
    Maybe there is hope for those who are not into being treated as social media distracted, self absorbed, narcissist.

  7. Waleed Aly for Governor-General!
    The voice of reason, best possible example of multi-culturalism. AND such a sense of humour.

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