Bob Francis (radio)
|Born||Robert Neville Francis
11 March 1939
|Education||Prince Alfred College|
|Occupation||Talkback radio presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Von Berg (2006–)|
|Children||Mark –29 July 1963 Rebecca – 23 August 1968|
Robert Neville "Bob" Francis OAM (born 11 March 1939 in Cairo, Egypt) is a former talk back radio presenter on South Australian radio station 5AA. His program aired between 8 pm and 12 midnight weekdays and was rated as Adelaide's most popular talk back program.
In July 2013, it was announced that Francis was to retire at the end of that year. The following month Bob Francis announced that he would retire from the airways on 8 August 2013 after 57 years. Suitably a variety of radio, television, media and music celebrities expressed their appreciation towards Bob's career through taped segments being aired during his last week of broadcast.
Francis hosted his own radio show on 5AA from 1985 to 2013 and was the station's longest serving employee. He completed 50 years in radio. Older listeners remember his long-standing on-air partnership with Andy Thorpe in the late sixties to mid-seventies on radio 5ADD.
5AA's website ironically describes him as "Aggressive, loud, rude, arrogant... and those are his good points." He also regularly referred to some of his callers as "Dickbrains". Francis ran a talkback show with an extremely conservative bias. He generally had little patience for someone, who presented views contrary to his own. In some cases, Francis would cut them off and/or banned them from calling him.
His radio show was also subjected to a highly effective prank call campaign called 'Bread and Butter Sandwiches' in the early 1990s.
Until August 2013, Bob Francis hosted his radio program from 8 pm to midnight every weekday,commanding between 24 and 28 per cent of the evening radio audience.
Francis was made famous to the rest of Australia through the ABC TV show The Chaser's War on Everything when one member of the Chaser rang him to question 5AA reporters as they were not at the "Subway Fresh Bread" press conference which was actually just a commercial. Because of his temper, he is a constant target for prank calls, such as one featuring on John Safran's show. These clips have appeared on the video sharing site YouTube.[dead link]
In 2005, Francis was inducted into the Australian Radio Hall of fame at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards held at the Sydney Convention Centre. The award recognises outstanding lifetime achievement and contribution to the radio broadcasting industry. After receiving the award, he said: "This is one of the greatest honours I can imagine, to me like winning an Academy Award." He was also presented with a Golden Microphone from 5AA for 20 years service.
In 1964, at just 25 years of age, while working as a radio DJ, Bob put together a petition of 80,000 signatures, which ended up persuading The Beatles to change their itinerary and visit Adelaide in their 1964 tour. He got to introduce the Beatles to Adelaide from the Town Hall balcony in June that year.
In July 2013, Francis announced that he would be retiring from radio at the end of the year after talks with FIVEaa management. He told the Sunday Mail "I just decided I wasn't really enjoying coming into work each day anymore". He made his last broadcast, which included many messages from well-wishers and ended with Francis in tears, on 8 August 2013.
One of his most controversial acts, also believed to have been one of the most controversial acts by any Australian talk show radio host, occurred on 27 September 2005 whilst talking to an elderly female listener. Francis spoke arrogantly to her, referring to her as a "stupid old lady" and repeatedly calling her a "dickbrain" The way he spoke and treated the elderly listener made headlines, and was even featured on Media Watch two weeks later. Francis refused to say sorry over the incident, saying: "I loved it. If it was taken in context, she had a go at me. She was being nasty" and that "If she rang again, I'd do the same thing". In February 2005, 5AA were found guilty by the country's peak broadcasting regulator, regarding comments made in regard to aboriginals on Bob's program. It is unknown who made the comments or what the comments were, just that they were likely to have incited or perpetuated hatred against Aboriginal people on the basis of their race. 5AA issued an apology over the incident. In October 2005, Francis was involved in a legal issue after making inflammatory comments about senior magistrate Gary Gumpl live on-air while commenting on a case involving Robert John Walker. Robert John Walker was charged with one count of possessing child pornography. Bob described Mr Gumpl's decision to hear a bail application as "irresponsible" and made comments such as "Am I here as a normal bloody human being, or do judges live in another world?" and "Oh, smash the judge's face in." He later issued a public apology.[dead link]
Despite the apology, Bob had to appear in court over the comments he made, and pleaded guilty to one count of bringing a judicial officer into contempt or lowering his authority. In August 2006, Bob was found guilty for the comments he made, being sentenced to jailed for nine weeks and fined $20,000 on a suspended sentence on the condition that Francis enter an 18-month good behaviour bond.
After being found guilty, Bob and the radio station faced a defamation lawsuit from Mr Gumpl, the magistrate in which Bob's comments were directed at. He accepted an offer of "around $60,000" which was paid by 5AA. Mr Gumpl said that incident had caused him considerable stress and hardship and he was pleased it had been finalised. After the incident, Bob was banned from drinking alcohol on air, as he occasionally took a bottle of red wine into the studio to drink while taking calls, and could have been partly responsible for his outbursts.[dead link]
In 2007, he was involved in an accident in which he broke his leg after falling off his scooter trying to avoid a dog. The accident resulted in surgery and two rods in his legs and a pin in his knee. It was later revealed that he was drink-driving and well over the legal limit at the time of the accident. He later called himself a "bloody idiot", and the only reason that he was drinking was because his boss offered him an on-going contract.
On Friday 7 June 2012, Francis was suspended for a month by 5AA following comments made about asylum seekers the preceding Monday. he said: "Bugger the boat people, as far as I'm concerned, I hope they bloody drown on their way out here. In my opinion, they are not welcome here". Francis later verbally attacked a journalist who had reported the incident saying " Can you believe that bloody bitch in The Australian... Some smart-arse dickhead woman... wrote me up in the paper this morning". When asked by the paper why he had made the comments he remarked "Because I felt like it" and told them to "Get F-----" He was condemned by fellow 5AA presenters Keith Conlon and Amanda Blair over the incident.
- Wheatley, Kim (27 October 2007). "I'm a true drink-drive idiot: Big Bob". AdelaideNow. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Adelaide Radio Summary Report – Survey No. 7, 2007".
- "Famous Francis". AdelaideNow. 15 October 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-31.[dead link]
- YouTube – Chaser Ad Road Test – Subway
- YouTube – John Safran and Bob Francis
- "Rod Muir and Bob Francis inducted to Hall of Fame". Commercial Radio Australia. 15 October 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Beatles breakfast: Bringing the Beatles to Adelaide". 891 ABC Adelaide. 10 June 2004. Archived from the original on 22 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "MediaWatch Transcript". MediaWatch. 10 October 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Radio station guilty of vilification". ABC News. 16 May 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- "Bob Francis may be charged with contempt of court". AdelaideNow. 31 October 2005. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Bob Francis guilty over magistrate remarks". ABC News. 18 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Broadcaster Francis given suspended sentence". ABC News. 25 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Booze ban for Francis". AdelaideNow. 28 January 2006. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "Radio "king" slammed over boatpeople tirade"". The Australian. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
- "Anderson: Francis takes the crown". Adelaide Now. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
- "FIVEaa's Francis off air after "boat people" tirade". Media Spy. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-06.