Des Foster – one of Australia’s Secret Heroes

A documentary on SBS TV recreates the exploits of the small band of secret World War 2 commandos known as Z Force. View the program here.

One of the members of Z Force was the late Des Foster.

Foster was a pioneer of talkback in Sydney. Until 1967, broadcasting regulations forbade the rebroadcasting of telephone calls, but when that was changed, radio changed. In his obituary, Des’ son told the story of how Foster pioneered what has now become known as shock jock style talkback. He wrote:

Foster, as general manager at 2GB, took his station in this new direction, although it wasn’t all plain sailing. On one early occasion, John Pearce, midway through a phone call, interrupted the caller with, “Rubbish, you are nothing but a silly old woman!” The station switchboard lit up with complaints.

Foster called Pearce into his office after the program finished and as Pearce walked in asked, “What do you think you were doing?” and once the door was closed said, “Whatever it is, keep doing it!” Pearce was thereafter marketed as the “Prince of Provocation” and talkback never looked back.

After returning from the war Foster became a newspaper journalist and later moved into radio, where he spent the rest of his career. He kept his Z Force activities secret for thirty years.

Foster never really retired. When he left active roles in radio management, he represented regional and narrowcast radio stations in lobbying and regulatory activities. Read more about Des Foster in our earlier report here.

Episode 1 of Australia’s Secret Heroes aired on Sunday June 15 on SBS1. View the program here. The series continues for three more weeks.

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