Brian Walsh, one of the most influential and respected figures in the Australian television industry, died unexpectedly on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Sydney. He was 67 years old. The cause of his death has not been officially revealed, but some sources have speculated that he may have suffered a heart attack or a stroke. His family issued a statement expressing their shock and sadness at his loss, and requesting privacy during this difficult time.
A Pioneering Career in Television
Walsh began his career in the media as a journalist with the ABC, before moving into feature film production and distribution at Palm Beach Pictures, and promotions and publicity at Sydney radio station 2SM. He joined the Ten Network in 1985, where he became the head of programming and production. He was instrumental in reviving the struggling soap opera Neighbours, which had been cancelled by Seven Network after only six months. Walsh reshaped the show, introducing new characters and storylines, and launching the careers of stars such as Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. Neighbours became a global phenomenon, especially in the UK, where it attracted millions of viewers.
In 1995, Walsh moved to Foxtel, where he helped establish the subscription television service in Australia. He was responsible for creating and commissioning original content for Foxtel’s channels, including dramas, comedies, documentaries and reality shows. Some of his most successful and acclaimed productions include Wentworth, A Place to Call Home, Upright, Love Me, Colin from Accounts and The Twelve. He also oversaw the Australian Rugby League’s iconic ‘Simply The Best’ marketing campaign featuring singer Tina Turner in the 1990s.
Walsh was widely regarded as a visionary and a leader in the television industry, with a keen eye for talent and storytelling. He won numerous awards and accolades for his work, including four Logies, two AACTAs and an Order of Australia Medal. He was also a mentor and a friend to many actors, writers, producers and directors who worked with him over the years.
Tributes from Friends and Colleagues
The news of Walsh’s death sent shockwaves across the Australian media landscape, as well as internationally. Many celebrities and industry figures paid tribute to him on social media and in statements, expressing their grief and gratitude for his contribution to their careers and to Australian culture.
Guy Pearce, who starred in Neighbours as Mike Young, tweeted: “I’m in shock & utterly devastated at the news of losing my long time friend & mentor Brian Walsh. Your compassion & support will never be forgotten mate, nor will ur [sic] guidance as we journeyed down Ramsay st & beyond.”
Foxtel Group chief Patrick Delany said in a statement: “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.”
Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke wrote: “Countless Australian stories were told and careers forged because of Brian’s vision, commitment and innate understanding of great storytelling.”
Walsh is survived by his sisters Maureen Walsh, Jeanette Walsh and Bernadette Walsh, as well as Bernadette’s husband Wayne Cooper and Brian’s nieces and nephews.