Vale Brian Walsh: Tributes Flow for Australian Television Pioneer

Brian Walsh
Courtesy of Foxtel

The television and wider media industry is reacting to the shock news that Brian Walsh has died.

Walsh’s storied career included time in radio, publicity and television, and he’s credited with spearheading the global success of “Neighbours” as well as effectively creating subscription television as we know it in Australia today, including Foxtel and streaming.

He was also passionate about Australian stories, storytelling and storytellers.

On stage last year as part of the Vivid Ideas festival, he was frank about both the power and perils of Australian stories on television at the moment.

“In all my years working in television, too many for me actually to remember, the current era we find ourselves in is in equal parts the most exciting time by way of fresh, compelling and truly creative content being produced and hitting our screens, and also, in some ways, the most concerning, when we think about the future of our stories, Australian stories being produced here in this country,” he said.

“At a time when Australian television screens are flooded with stories from around the world, there’s never been a more important time to champion Australian storytelling that reflects modern Australia – a diverse landscape of cultures, perspectives, people and compelling stories.”

Patrick Delany, CEO of Foxtel Group, said Walsh was also a friend and mentor to many, who was part of the glory days of Network 10. Throughout his decades at Foxtel, he also had a profound impact, Delany said.

“There isn’t a decision either from communications, PR, content that he hasn’t been involved in in the Foxtel Group, for like 28 years,” Delany told Ben Fordham’s 2GB radio show this morning.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) said Walsh’s contribution over many decades had shaped the industry, grown its reputation on the world stage and resulted in “an untold number of iconic entertainment moments ingrained in our memories”.

SPA CEO, Matthew Deaner, said: “Today’s news has come as a shock and deeply saddened myself, the SPA team, our members and the Australian screen sector as a whole. Brian’s contributions to Australian television during his career have helped shape Australian culture and identity on screens locally and internationally, and for this, we will be eternally appreciative and grateful.

“Brian was an avid supporter of opportunities to bring about progress and change in our industry and was a key figure over many years at our Screen Forever conference. His commitment, dedication, and drive for the advancement of the Australian screen industry and Australian screen stories – particularly television drama – was staggering and will be sorely missed.”

Television stalwart, Lisa Wilkinson, most recently a panelist on Channel 10’s “The Project” noted how Walsh had shaped her career early on.

“I’m devastated about the sad news of beautiful Brian. We went all the way back to his 2SM days. He was the one who first put me on television when he decided to bring back “Beauty and the Beast” in the1990s. He remained a friend and mentor forever since,” she said.

“He gave me the best advice I ever received about working in the media on the first day on set. The beast, Stan Zemanek and I were sitting next to each other at the desk and Brian could see that we were both terrified. His advice: ‘Get over yourselves, it’s only television’.”

Fordham also added his own personal tribute, saying Walsh’s death was “really, really sad news” which would be a shock to a lot of his media colleagues.

“Walshy was a pioneer of the media industry, he’s responsible for discovering some of the biggest names in show business from Hugh Jackman to Kylie Minogue. He worked closely with Nicole Kidman too, and remained friends with all of these people,” he said.

“Brian Walsh was such a lovely bloke, he was just such a star. A behind-the-scenes guy, who was always looking out for others and looking for opportunities for other people…. [He was] a humble and modest man. He preferred to stay out of the spotlight,” he added.

Arts Minister Tony Burke said he was forever grateful for Walsh’s contribution to the arts.

“Devastated to hear Brian Walsh who drove Australian drama at Foxtel has died,” he said.

“Countless Australian stories were told and careers forged because of Brian’s vision, commitment and innate understanding of great storytelling.”

Update: Brian Walsh’s family has also issued a statement about his death