Wednesday 26 October 2005 looks like being one of the
more expensive day’s – or night’s – broadcasting for former disc jockey turned
chat-show host Bob Francis and his employers Festival City Broadcaster who own
Adelaide AM station 5AA.

Both Francis and the station were convicted late
yesterday in the SA Supreme Court of two counts of contempt of court over
Francis’s extended slagging on his 8pm-midnight shift that night of a magistrate
who had adjourned a bail application by a later-convicted s-x offender, and the
offender himself.

At the time, Robert John Walker had been charged with
possession of child p-rnography, an offence carrying a maximum penalty of five
years. He had not even entered a plea. He had a right to choose a jury trial –
which, in the end, he did not exercise.

After magistrate Gary Gumpl adjourned his bail
application that day to await a psychiatric report, Big Bob let fly: Gumpl
should not have even contemplated bail for Walker was just the beginning of a
diatribe which produced a prompt apology, a settlement of Gumpl’s defamation
action, and a guilty plea to the first contempt charge – bringing a judicial
officer into contempt. Francis moved quickly, and at length throughout the program,
onto Walker,
reaching his lowest point with what reads like a call for re-introducing the
death penalty.

In the end, Walker did not get bail, pleaded guilty, and
was sentenced late in June this year to three years and two months jail, with a
22-month non-parole period.

Yesterday, in the Supreme Court, Justice David Bleby
found Francis and the station guilty of a further contempt for the lynch-mob
aspects of the broadcast of 26 October 2005, words “calculated to prejudice or
pervert the course of justice”. He will hear sentencing submissions on Friday
week, July 28.

An alert Adelaide media, enthusiastic pursuers of the
salacious in and around court stories, might fairly interpret this decision as a
warning shot across the bows. But will Big Bob repent? Who knows? He does seem
to be a slow learner. After 40 years of public-affairs radio, he reckoned when
apologising to magistrate Gumpl that he had been unaware that a judge or
magistrate had no choice but to give a hearing to any application for bail. And
he does not take to kindly to strictures, as Media Watch has detailed.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey