There are some big changes in store for Channel 10's news and current affairs show, The Project, with Carrie Bickmore and Lisa Wilkinson leaving the program.
After 13 years behind the news desk, comedian and TV presenter Bickmore announced in October she's leaving.
The 41-year-old Gold Logie winner revealed she'll finish up at the news and current affairs program in November after starting off as one of the original hosts of the Channel 10 show alongside Dave 'Hughesy' Hughes and Charlie Pickering in 2009.
"It's been the hardest decision of my professional life to make this call, but it’s time for a new challenge, time for the next chapter," Bickmore said during Tuesday night's show.
"There’s so much I’m going to miss, I’m going to miss my best mates on the desk, the job itself, which is so incredibly fulfilling [and] the wonderful viewers over the past 13 years.
"It’s no secret this show has become a second home to me and I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone that has been involved on- and off-screen."
Lisa Wilkinson later revealed she was also leaving the show after five years.
"The last six months have not been easy,” the former Today show host told viewers during her last episode.
"And the relentless, targeted toxicity by some sections of the media has taken a toll not just on me but on people I love.
"Don’t get me wrong. I’m not above criticism. Far from it. I’m human, and I don’t always get it right. None of us do. But by god I’ve tried. I’ve given this job everything I have."
However, Bickmore and Wilkinson's exit from The Project provide an opportunity for Channel 10 and the show's producers to cast the net further than the Samantha Harris and Chrissie Swans of the biz. With Census data last year showing that almost half of us have at least one parent born overseas (48.2%), and almost a quarter of us (24.8%) speak a language other than English at home, there is clearly an opportunity to engage multicultural audiences, and featuring diverse voices on a prime-time evening show is a sure way to do it.
The Australian television and media industry has long struggled to adequately represent the country's multicultural population. A 2020 landmark study conducted by Media Diversity Australia and academics found that 75% of on-air talent on news and current affairs television are Anglo-Celtic, and only 6% are either Indigenous or from a non-European background. These findings were based on 81 news programs and 270 reporters over two weeks in June 2019.
Bickmore's co-host Waleed Aly also spoke about the need for better cultural representation on television during his 2016 Gold Logies acceptance speech.
"Someone who is in this room — and I'm not going to use the name they use in the industry — came up to me, introduced themselves and said, 'I really hope you win. My name is Mustafa. But I can't use that name because I won't get a job,'" Aly said on stage.
"He's here tonight. And it matters to people like that that I am here. I know it's not because of me. I know that. But if tonight means anything, it's that the Australian public, our audience, as far as they're concerned, there is absolutely no reason why that can't change."
In 2018, he said there hadn't been a vast improvement since his Gold Logie victory. "I wouldn’t say that there’s been a huge change but these things are all incremental,” Aly told Yahoo Lifestyle at that year's Logies. "The progress is slow, I’d love it to be quicker but I don’t have control over that. These things take time."
It was back in April this year when Bickmore announced a brief break from The Project while she and her family enjoyed some time overseas. The Masked Singer judge Chrissie Swan and former ABC News presenter Georgie Tunny were announced as Bickmore's replacements. However, this was a missed opportunity to cast a woman of colour when there were not one, but two spots up for grabs to keep Bickmore's seat warm.
Following Bickmore's departure announcement in October, Tunny has already been tipped as the favourite to step into the role, with betting agency Sportsbet reporting her odds are at $1.90. The other names that are mentioned by the bookies include Sarah Harris, Chrissie Swan, Kate Langbroek, Melissa Doyle, Sophie Monk and Denise Drysdale. While each of these women are incredibly talented and entertaining, it's a shame that not a single woman of colour has been mentioned.
While newsrooms, red carpets and press conferences are no doubt still dominated by blonde-haired reporters, there are plenty of culturally diverse women in Australian media who are qualified for the job and could very well attract new audiences with fresh insights and opinions that resonate with diverse communities.
Who Will Replace Carrie Bickmore & Lisa Wilkinson On The Project?
Here's a round-up of some of the women who have already been speculated to replace Bickmore and Wilkinson, as well as others we'd like to throw into the mix.
Antoinette Lattouf is a broadcaster, columnist, author and TEDx Sydney speaker who co-founded Media Diversity Australia. She's appeared on The Project desk in the past as a guest panellist.
Bridget Brennan is ABC’s Indigenous affairs editor and previously the national broadcaster's Europe Correspondent in London and the National Indigenous Affairs Correspondent.
Georgie Tunny was a presenter at the ABC where she covered sport and weather. She was a co-host during the 2020 Bushfire emergency coverage and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Journalist and presenter Rachael Hocking worked for NITV from 2015 to 2021 and was the former co-host of its flagship show, The Point.
Former Big Brother runner-up Chrissie Swan is a host of NOVA 100's breakfast radio show, and also a judge on The Masked Singer Australia.
Former host of The Feed on SBS, journalist Jan Fran is also known for her work on the podcasts The Briefing and The Pineapple Project as well as appearances on The Project as a guest panellist from time to time.
After co-hosting Channel 7's breakfast show, Sunrise between 2002 and 2013, Melissa Doyle presented news programs with the network and was also the host of Sunday Night from 2015 to 2019.
Comedian Susie Youssef has been a regular guest on The Project as well as a slate of other Channel 10 shows including Celebrity Name Game, Have You Been Paying Attention? and Hughesy, We Have a Problem.
Narelda Jacobs joined Channel 10's morning talk show, Studio 10 as a panellist in 2020 after 20 years as a news presenter at 10 News First Perth. She has also appeared on The Project as a guest panellist in the past.
Following her stint as a Triple J newsreader from 2016 to 2018, Brooke Boney has been the entertainment reporter on Channel 9's breakfast TV show, Today.
Refinery29 Australia has contacted Channel 10 for comment.