Vale: Oscar Whitbread

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Pioneering drama producer, Oscar Whitbread, best known for Bellbird, Power Without Glory, and Rush, has died aged 86.

He died on Sunday after a long illness, ABC reports.

Whitbread was head of drama at the ABC during the 1970s and later the Seven Network. He began his career in 1964, held the post of senior executive-producer at Crawford Productions and directed for the BBC, Granada, Thames and London Weekend.

His formidable credits include Bellbird, Power Without Glory, The Flying Doctors, Rush, Bush Patrol, Lucinda Brayford, Burn the Butterflies, All The Green Years, Locusts and Wild Honey, The Power The Passion, Acropolis Now and Cluedo.

His son, Adam Whitbread, said, “He was in the very first wave of the television start-up and quickly came to the realisation that there was a very definite need for an Australian character to television drama — and that it needed to be embraced by the industry and championed by public broadcasting.

“He believed passionately in that and it underscored his whole life’s work.

“He did enormous amounts behind the scenes to encourage and nurture Australian talent and to tell Australian stories in an authentic manner.”

Whitbread mentored writer Alan Hopgood and producer, the late Sonia Borg. He also championed actors Martin Vaughan and Kelton Pell, the late producer Lynn Bayonas, composer George Dreyfus and discovered Kerry Armstrong at the age of 14 in a school play.

“I will always be deeply grateful for Oscar’s mentorship and encouragement and am delighted that both Adam and Kate continue the Whitbread legacy with enormous generosity of spirit, grace and dedication to fine storytelling,” she said in a statement.

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