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Brian Walsh reveals: Free TVs and Daily Mirror saved second Neighbours axing

Foxtel’s Brian Walsh and 10’s Rick Maier were among those who paid a visit to the Neighbours set during the final week of production.

Both had a part in getting Neighbours on the air. Maier, Network 10’s head of drama and executive production, previously worked on the show when at Grundy’s and then again during his two spells at the network.

Despite the fact that Foxtel executive director of television Walsh hasn’t worked on the show since joining the company in 1995, he stays close to the cast and crew.

“I was the head of publicity for TEN at the time, and the then MD of the network, George Brown, called me to his office to advise me of the brazen move to grab the show from Channel 7 in an effort to fix our 7pm problem, which was a wasteland with unending repetitions of MAS*H,” Walsh told Mediaweek.

“I recall vividly that meeting and the brief — make Neighbours work at all costs!”

“It was an uphill battle, to be honest. In Melbourne, Neighbours found an audience, but in Sydney, we couldn’t get the ball rolling.”

The TEN GM was getting irritated!

“After a three-month aggressive campaign, the ratings slumped,” Walsh continued. I was summoned to the boss’s office once more and given four weeks. Neighbours must succeed or it will be cancelled. For the second time, the show would be cancelled.”

“I had a gut feeling that we could pull this off.” I was aware that it had a following, particularly among teenagers.

“Because I was schooled in radio promotions, I went back to the drawing board and devised a massive consumer promotion, launching a competition to give away 1000 television sets.” It was named ‘Nominate Your Neighbour,’ and it was a nationwide campaign in which we gave out hundreds of televisions to families across the country.

“I literally had the young cast, Jason, Kylie, Guy, Annie, and Pete O’Brien, go door to door around Australia handing away free TVs…the response was phenomenal.”

The campaign’s next step was to introduce the young cast to the general audience.

“I then began making appearances at shopping malls across the country, giving away T-shirts and other products.” I made sure that those visits were recorded, and I then forwarded the tape to every newspaper editor in the country to publicise the fact that the show had a huge following.

“To his credit, Roy Miller, the editor of the Sydney Daily Mirror, called me and said, “Thanks, I’ve received your video.” ‘Dad, all the kids at school love Neighbours,’ my 16-year-old daughter informed me when I brought it home and showed it to her.

“He set me the task of coming up with a front-page photo article that would promote the show.

“That was the pivotal moment. I had to provide Roy Miller with that ‘picture opportunity,’ and I did so. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

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