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Robert Neville Francis
11 March 1939
|Died||12 November 2016 (aged 77)|
North Adelaide, South Australia
|Education||Prince Alfred College|
|Occupation||Talkback radio presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Anna Von Berg (2006–2016; his death)|
|Children||2 Mark –29 July 1963 Rebecca – 23 August 1968|
In July 2013, it was announced that Francis was to retire at the end of that year. The following month he announced that he would retire from broadcasting on 8 August 2013 after 57 years. A variety of radio, television, media, and music celebrities expressed their appreciation towards his career through taped segments being aired during his last week of broadcast.
Francis was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1939.
In 1964, at just 25 years of age, while working as a radio DJ, Francis 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 also introduced the Beatles to Adelaide from the Town Hall balcony in June that year.
Francis was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 1998 Australia Day Honours for "service to the community, particularly through supporting charitable organisations which seek to help young people, and to the media in the area of talk-balk radio."
Until August 2013, 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 team 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 was 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.
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 July 2013, Francis announced that he would be retiring from radio at the end of the year after talks with 5AA 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.
Francis died on 12 November 2016 at the age of 77.
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 Francis' 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. The station issued an apology over the incident. In October 2005, Francis was involved in a legal issue after making inflammatory comments about a senior magistrate, Gary Gumpl. live on-air while commenting on a case involving Robert John Walker who had been charged with one count of possessing child pornography. Francis described 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.
Despite the apology, Francis had to appear in court over the comments and pleaded guilty to one count of bringing a judicial officer into contempt or lowering his authority. In August 2006, Francis was found guilty for the comments he made, being sentenced to jail for nine weeks and fined $20,000 on a suspended sentence on the condition that he enter an 18-month good behaviour bond.
After being found guilty, Francis and the radio station faced a defamation lawsuit from Gumpl, the magistrate who Francis' comments were directed at. He accepted an offer of "around $60,000" which was paid by 5AA. Gumpl said that incident had caused him considerable stress and hardship and he was pleased it had been finalised. After the incident, Francis 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.
In 2007, Francis 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 said that the only reason he was drinking was because his boss offered him an ongoing contract.
On 7 June 2012, Francis was suspended for a month by 5AA following comments made about asylum seekers four days earlier. 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 fucked". He was condemned by fellow 5AA presenters Keith Conlon and Amanda Blair over the incident.
- "Adelaide Radio Summary Report – Survey No. 7, 2007" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
- Wheatley, Kim (27 October 2007). "I'm a true drink-drive idiot: Big Bob". AdelaideNow. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Beatles breakfast: Bringing the Beatles to Adelaide". 891 ABC Adelaide. 10 June 2004. Archived from the original on 22 June 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
- "Robert Neville Francis". honours.pmc.gov.au. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
- "Famous Francis". AdelaideNow. 15 October 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2007.[dead link]
- on YouTube
- on YouTube[dead link]
- "Rod Muir and Bob Francis inducted to Hall of Fame". Commercial Radio Australia. 15 October 2005. Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "'Larger than life' Adelaide radio legend Bob Francis dies aged 77". ABC News. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
- "MediaWatch Transcript". MediaWatch. 10 October 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Radio station guilty of vilification". ABC News. 16 May 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
- "Bob Francis may be charged with contempt of court". AdelaideNow. 31 October 2005. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Bob Francis guilty over magistrate remarks". ABC News. 18 July 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Broadcaster Francis given suspended sentence". ABC News. 25 August 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- "Booze ban for Francis". AdelaideNow. 28 January 2006. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
- "Radio "king" slammed over boatpeople tirade"". The Australian. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "Anderson: Francis takes the crown". Adelaide Now. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "FIVEaa's Francis off air after "boat people" tirade". Media Spy. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
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