Bob Moore Remembers
Recorded April 2006
In 1956 when television started I was in the ABC Radio Sport Service as a sporting commentator. (I joined ABC Radio in 1954.) When the television workshops started in 1955/56 the only sporting person there was Dick Healy, who was the NSW Sports Director. I was doing Rugby matches every Saturday afternoon as well as other sporting activities. Then during 1956 we started a television program called Sports Cavalcade – this was an offshoot of a radio show called the Sports Show. The format was that the commentator of the day would interview sportsmen of the day. So that was my first involvement in television. That went on for a number of years and I went on to the announcing staff in 1959. The Sports Department was an integrated body – we did not have special television presenters. There was a staff of 25 to 30 radio announcers. We had the 2 radio networks plus the regional areas and then we had to spread our staff to cover television.
So at that point we were all spread out - so one day we would be doing radio news and the next day doing presentation on television. It was a very good grounding for us all because we had the feeling for both media, which was excellent. The one negative of this arrangement was that one got a little bit phased going from one medium to another. In 1959, as I was on the announcing staff I did more and more presentation including TV News, Outside Broadcasts, etc.
In the fifty years since the start of television the performance of sporting people being able to articulate has improved immensely. In the fifties they were nearly inarticulate. You would ask a question and the answer would be "yeh". You would have to ask about 30 questions in about 2 minutes! It was very difficult.
I had a lot to do with editing stories for Sports Cavalcade. We often went out to some sporting event and do a recording. This was usually with cinecamera and sound staff. When we got back to the studio we had to arrange the segments in the desired order. This was usually done by the commentator and the editor. We also had to write the script and make sure the timing was correct. It was like a self made sporting machine.
There was one particular interview I remember from those days – it was a chap called Dirty Dick Raines. He wasn’t called that because of his washing habits; he was a wrestler. He was an American wrestler, and he could talk! He was sitting there in the studio with me and there was a microphone on a stand next to his knee. He had this horseshoe which was his lucky charm. A big chrome horseshoe with a thick chrome chain. He had this on his knee and he kept on tapping it during our talk – of course he was also taping the microphone and this was wrecking the sound. The instruction came from the control room to remove the horseshoe. So a studio-hand went in to take the horseshoe from Dick Rains, and the poor chap nearly got thrown out of the studio by this powerful wrestler. Of course, this was all happening in a live situation – there was no videotape in those days.
Bernard Kerr was the Director of Sport in the ABC. He insisted that we had to wear a jacket and tie at all times, irrespective of the weather and conditions. In the small studio it got very hot, as all the staff would remember. The temperature under the lights felt like 150 degrees! So some announcers looked in full attire to the viewers, but they actually took off their pants and were sitting there in their underpants!
On the subject of announcing the ABC had certain standards which had to be adhered to. The auditioning process was very solid. You had to do up to four auditions before you could get on the air – if you were lucky. The doors were always open to people who wanted to become announcers, and there were always hundreds of people who thought they could do a better job than the people on air. Most people were unsuitable, but they still had to be given an audition. First they had to sort out those people who had a suitable voice and those that didn’t have one. Then they went through a process of how the people read, how they phrased, could they read intelligently. They had another audition to check their knowledge; also their capacity to pronounce foreign languages. We had to know the basic pronunciation guide to the Italian, German and French language. When we went on air finally it was a question of having your own innate ability, your personality, quality of your voice and the way the voice was used. You learnt through your own mistakes. You were told where you were wrong. There was a committee which I believe still exists – SCOSE, the Standing Committee on Spoken English. The decided on the desired way to pronounce certain words, names etc. We used to get their documents every month or so, instructing us on the ways certain words had to be pronounced. You didn’t step away from that, because if you did building fell in on top of you!
There were three avenues of pronunciation that were explored – first the SCOSE directives, the BBC guide and the Daniel Jones pronouncing dictionary – he was a famous phonetics man. In my day Gordon Scott, the Superintendent of Studios, was Chairman of the SCOSE committee. There was an announcer’s representative on the committee this was requested by the ABC Staff Association. The other members were academics.
We integrated through the various areas of broadcasting, in Radio we would be doing outside broadcasts, news, sports, parliamentary commentary in Canberra; you got a really good grounding in broadcasting. It was pretty good stuff! Many of the people on air these days would have great difficulty of getting through the announcing auditions we had.
Eventually I became the Saturday afternoon Sportsview compere. The job was first started by Michael Charlton, then by Martin Royal, followed by John West, and then I took over the spot when the other announcers had other commitments. This became a very popular Saturday afternoon sports program. It had a very big following in those days. We had people working in the corridor outside studio 23. One job they had was to type questions for Ray Mitchell for the regular segment of Boxing Corner. I got the questions which I then asked Ray – he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of boxing. Also outside the studio we had the girls typing out the racing results. I worked quite a bit in Studio 23, which was a bit pokey.
Other sporting commentators from those days included Brian McClenahan and Bob Richardson.
On a day of work I had to go down to the local garage. Well, I was just wearing a tee-shirt, shorts and thongs and I also could have done with a shave. When I went in the front office, the chap had a good look at me and asked me whether I was Michael Charton. I said no, I was Bob Moore. "Well" he said " You look better on the screen than off it!"
Another incident I can remember was when I was presenting a show from a large navy ship. At one stage after I made an announcement the producer told me to walk from one side of the deck to the other. He assured me that I would be out of shot if I kept my head down, as he would be using a camera on a close up. So, I hunched over kept my head down and did my walk. Later when I viewed the final recording – there I was on a wide shot doing a funny walk for all to see! Needless to say I wasn’t too happy with that producer.
In those days I used the technique of scanning ahead, looking at the camera and script at the same time. James Dibble was very good at that. I would say he was the very best we had on the news. I did some newsreading later on – first we read the regional news, which went to the country stations for a 5 minute local news segment; then we had the full bulletin at 7 o’clock.
I was on the Board of Directors of the 729 Club when it started its operation in 1959. We had a big decision to make as what to call it – should it be 279 or 927 etc Well we finally had to solve the problem by tossing a coin. Geoff Powell was the driving force behind the formation of the Club.
People have asked me how I got my ‘nickname’ of Rocket – well it was given to me by Johnny O’Keefe when we worked together on radio shows.