OBITUARY:Sir Talbot Duckmanton
Saturday 17 June 1995
Like his predecessor the Reithian Sir Charles Moses, Tal Duckmanton had started his broadcasting career as a sports commentator. His voice was light, clear and calm but lively, and he was one of three Commonwealth broadcasters assigned to the BBC team to help describe the Queen's Coronation procession in 1953. The following year he was the commentator aboard the Gothic sailing from New Zealand to Australia with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. This was the first visit of a reigning monarch to the Antipodes.
Duckmanton, who was the son of an architect, joined ABC as a trainee announcer in 1939, having been auditioned, in his school uniform, by Moses. During the Second World War he served as a pilot in the RAAF before becoming an ABC war correspondent in 1945. Subsequently he was a national newsreader and outside broadcasts commentator before moving into managerial posts in Queensland and Tasmania.
He became the chief executive of ABC in February 1965, and oversaw a vast extension of its programming range, notably the introduction of daily radio and television current affairs programmes, the establishment of colour television and the creation of an FM network.
Politically, Duckmanton tended to be a right-winger. Confusingly, a right- winger in Australia is a Liberal, in America a Liberal is a left-winger, and in Britain a Liberal is in the centre. Following the Australian Liberal landslide in the 1966 Federal Election, Duckmanton officially rebuked ABC's deputy general manager, Clement Semmler, for protesting against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war, saying, "You're letting the side down. After all, the ABC has a duty to support the government in this matter."
Duckmanton became an important player on the international broadcasting stage. He was a trustee of Visnews, the international newsfilm agency now Reuters Television, and took a great interest in its affairs. From 1973 to 1977 he was the President of the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (established by Sir Charles Moses), and from 1975 to 1982 President of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. He was knighted in 1980 and retired two years later, shortly after ABC celebrated its 50th birthday.
Duckmanton was a reserved and somewhat shy man. His first wife, Florence, died in 1978; they had a son and three daughters. His subsequent marital career was chequered. In 1979 he married the Chief Censor in Australia, Mrs Janet Strickland. Two years later they separated. His third marriage was to an Englishwoman, Mrs Carolyn Wright. This marriage, too, lasted only two years. He later went back to Janet Strickland.
Talbot Sydney Duckmanton, broadcaster: born South Yarra, Victoria 26 October 1921; Deputy General Manager, Australian Broadcasting Commission 1964-65, General Manager 1965-82; President, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union 1973-77; President, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association 1975-82; trustee, Visnews 1965-82; married 1947 Florence Simmonds (died 1978; one son, three daughters), 1979 Janet Strickland (marriage dissolved 1981), Carolyn Wright (marriage dissolved); died Gold Coast, Queensland 12 June 1995.
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