Remembering Brian Walsh: Icon of the Australian entertainment industry

Brian Walsh

‘We have lost an icon of Australian television that will never be replaced. Rest in peace, Brian’

Friends and colleagues of Brian Walsh, one of the greatest supporters of Australian TV and the arts in the media, awoke this morning to news he had passed away.

Walsh has been part of the Foxtel management team since the business launched in 1995. Just last year Walsh signed a new agreement with Foxtel.

Under that deal he was to continue his consultancy with the subscription TV platform. He planned to continue to work on local content strategy, industry relations and was to continue spearheading the Foxtel Originals drama division.

After Walsh and Foxtel made public their new deal, Walsh spoke to Mediaweek last June on a special Mediaweek Podcast. Listen online or on Apple Podcasts.

“This is my 27th year I’ve been involved with Foxtel,” Walsh told Mediaweek at the time. “I was part of the pioneering management team in 1995 that launched the service. I joined the company back then as a consultant because I still had my own promotions business going.

Rick Maier, Brian Walsh and Neighbours EP Jason Harbison last year

“For the first 12 months it was all about launching pay television into the Australian market. Those days we were in competition with Galaxy and Optus Vision. Sam Chisholm [former Foxtel chair, director and consultant] at the time said we need to find a program director. I kept going back to Sam with names from the industry. He kept asking me to do better and in the end I ran out of names.

“In the end he asked me to do it. When I explained I was a publicist and had never done TV programming, Chisholm replied, ‘Don’t worry, there’s not many people watching so if you make a mistake no one’s going to notice.’

“For much of the last 27 years I have been responsible for much of the Foxtel programming, promotions, publicity and marketing. All of those years I have been a consultant and I was never an employee. The workload though was so consuming I never had the opportunity to do the other things I like to do.

“As I move into this chapter of my career I thought it was time to spread my wings and do some other things. The Foxtel directors, management team and the proprietor have been extraordinary and have understood that.

“I have signed a new contract with the company to continue doing what I love – telling Australian stories. In due course I will get to branch out in the entertainment industry and do a few other things.”

Sadly some of those exciting “few other things” won’t be happening.

Upright - Foxtel's Brian Walsh with Tim Minchin

Foxtel’s Brian Walsh with Tim Minchin

Mediaweek included Brian Walsh on the inaugural Mediaweek Icons list published in October 2022 and he was a special guest at the first Mediaweek Power Lunch.

Mediaweek also saw Walsh late last year at the Herald Sun Melbourne launch event for the Future Victoria campaign.

Just a few days later Walsh was at the Enmore Theatre in inner-city Sydney where he was busy promoting the second season of Upright. He posed for our camera before the premiere with star Tim Minchin and then was busy afterwards asking Foxtel guests how much they enjoyed the first episode which Foxtel had just screened.

Brian Walsh was always a great supporter of Mediaweek and he found time to answer any questions and give us quotes when requested and he will be sadly missed, yet very fondly remembered.

Foxtel remembers Brian Walsh: ‘For us the loss is heavily felt’

Foxtel released this statement this morning:

The Foxtel Group has expressed its profound sadness at the sudden loss of Brian Walsh, an iconic figure throughout Foxtel’s 28-year history and one of the most admired creative leaders in Australian television. Brian died in Sydney yesterday.

Brian began his career with ABC before going into feature film production and distribution at Palm Beach Pictures and promotions and publicity at Sydney Radio Station 2SM. After five years at Radio 2SM, Brian joined Network TEN, where he launched major network events, including the acclaimed Kennedy Miller mini-series “Vietnam”, “The Bangkok Hilton”, and “The Dirtwater Dynasty”. Brian’s also credited with responsibility for the global success of the iconic Australian family drama series, “Neighbours and launching the careers of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce.

Brian initially established his reputation as a gifted media, entertainment and sports publicist. His CV is a roll-call of iconic moments in television marketing and publicity including the creation of the Simply The Best season launch for the National Rugby League which featured Tina Turner. Brian was also the creative force behind a series of blockbuster Grand Final and State of Origin Entertainment shows and events while also being the much-loved publicist for the largest Australian international concert tours including by Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Neil Diamond, Ricky Martin and Barbra Streisand.

In 1995, Brian was a key member of the management team that established Australian subscription television with the launch of Foxtel. Brian’s talent and his unique ability to engage people saw him become Foxtel’s creative force over the past two decades including overseeing all scripted and unscripted commissions for the Foxtel Group. This includes some of Australia’s best quality, most loved television series including Wentworth, Upright, Deadline Gallipoli, The Kettering Incident, The End and most recently the award-winning and globally distributed series Love Me, Colin from Accounts and The Twelve.

Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany said: “This is a very difficult day for the Foxtel Group family, for Australia’s creative community and the millions of Australians who watched and loved the stories that Brian bought to life through television. Australia’s creative community has lost a much-loved figure in Brian.  For us, the loss is heavily felt. 

“At the Foxtel Group, Brian was a long-time mentor, a confidant, a colleague and an unwavering friend to so many. Today, we are grieving Brian’s passing. Our condolences go to his family and to those closest to him. We have lost an icon of Australian television that will never be replaced. Rest in peace, Brian.”

Further statements from the media world 

From Beverley McGarvey, Executive Vice President Paramount Australia and New Zealand: “The network’s close association with Brian goes back almost to the very start of Neighbours. Brian was instrumental in the now – very famous – series relaunch on 10. It was Brian’s commitment to the show that saw it build from poor early ratings to become the juggernaut we all know and love.

“Just a few months ago, Brian came to Nunawading for a set visit. He absolutely loved it and was welcomed back by cast and crew with open arms. It was clear he had never lost that sense of connection. Brian’s passion for television and for the industry is legendary. 

“There is – and in our opinion – will never be a greater TV brain or a greater advocate for local drama or local content. Network 10 and Foxtel’s commitment to Gogglebox is perhaps the best recent example of that. Brian would be responsible for thousands of careers on both sides of the camera. He was one of a kind and will be hugely missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

From Mike Sneesby, CEO of Nine: “Today’s news of Brian Walsh’s passing is devastating for so many people in our creative industry. I would like to send my condolences to his family and those near to him. Myself and many others across the industry enjoyed a great relationship with Brian over many years and I will personally miss his passion, enthusiasm, loyalty and creativity – he was a great Australian.” 

From Matthew Deaner, Screen Producers Australia CEO: “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.”

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