FRANCIS, BOB (1939– )
Adelaide’s longest-serving commercial radio announcer began his career in 1957. The Top 40 announcer, who claimed to be the first disc jockey on Adelaide radio, was known on air as Big Bob Francis. 5DN listeners were greeted with his signature welcome: ‘I’m the big guy, 10 storeys high’. In 1964, he obtained some 80,000 signatures to change The Beatles’ Australian tour itinerary to include Adelaide, and he interviewed the band on the balcony of the Adelaide Town Hall. The visit attracted an estimated crowd of 300,000—the largest public gathering to see The Beatles in the world.
In 1967, as host of 5AD’s morning timeslot, Francis became one of Adelaide’s first talkback announcers. His program was topical and lively, and addressed issues relating to the Vietnam War; in 1968, Francis spent a week living as a ‘digger’ in Vietnam. Also in 1968, then federal opposition leader Gough Whitlam appeared with Francis and Angela Stacey, spending over an hour answering listeners’ questions.
In 1957, Francis had been suspended for 10 days for using the word ‘bloody’ on air. Later, at 5AA, he courted controversy, adopting an increasingly conservative image. His comments in 2004, following the death of an Aboriginal youth and a riot in the Sydney suburb of Redfern attracted an Australian Broadcasting Authority investigation. It found that Francis had breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice by inciting or perpetuating hatred against Aboriginal people, but he escaped without penalty. That year he was also held in contempt of court after he declared that a man brought to trial for the possession of child pornography was guilty, and that the magistrate who granted bail should have his ‘face smashed in’. He was fined $20,000 and given a suspended jail sentence. Francis was later partnered on air with Andy Thorpe.
After his 5AD morning show ended in around 1976, Francis became the station manager. In the mid-1980s, he moved to 5AA to host the night-time session. In 1998 he was appointed OAM for service to the community.
In 2005, just days after being lambasted by Media Watch for labelling an elderly caller a ‘dick brain’, Francis was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame. He retired in 2013 after 57 years on radio.