Outrage Grows Over Australian 2DayFM UK Hospital Prank

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Filed under: Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Pregnant Kate: Radio Station Faces Backlash
Sky News
December 8, 2012

The CEO of the radio station behind the Duchess of Cambridge hoax call says his DJs are “shattered” by the death of a nurse.11:09am UK, Saturday 08 December 2012

Video: Prank Radio Station Faces Backlash

Two DJs are being offered counselling after the nurse duped by their prank call to the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospital died in a suspected suicide.

Nurse Jacintha Saldanha was found dead days after taking the hoax call and putting it through to a nurse on Kate’s ward, who divulged private information about her treatment.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge led tributes to the 46-year-old mother of two, saying they were “deeply saddened” by news of her death.

Flowers have also been left outside the hospital’s nurses’ block, just around the corner from the building where Kate was treated for acute morning sickness.

Major advertisers have dumped 2Day FM and presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been taken off air as the station faces a backlash over the disastrous stunt.

The duchess said she felt “much better” when she left the hospital

Speaking at a news conference in Melbourne, Rhys Holleran, CEO of 2Day FM’s parent company Southern Cross Austereo said the “shocked and devastated” DJs had been offered help dealing with the tragedy.

He said: “This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we’re deeply saddened by it.

“I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it’s fair to say they’re completely shattered.

“These people aren’t machines, they’re human beings. We’re all affected by this.”

Holleran would not say who came up with the idea for the call, only that “these things are often done collaboratively”.

He said 2Day FM would work with authorities, but was confident the station hadn’t broken any laws, noting that prank calls in radio have been happening “for decades”.

The DJ pair bragged about the stunt on Twitter after an initial apology
“They’re not just part of one radio station or one network or one country – they’re done worldwide,” he said

Supermarket giant Coles and telecoms firm Telstra both announced they are withdrawing their business from the station at the earliest opportunity, while Australian media are reporting that media company Optus is also reviewing its position.

The station later announced that it would pull all advertising from its airwaves with immediate effect.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates the country’s media industry, said it had been inundated with complaints.

It will be looking at whether the DJs breached the Commercial Radio Code of Practice, part of which aims “to prevent the unauthorised broadcast of statements by identifiable persons”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the incident as a “terrible tragedy”.

During the hoax call, Greig impersonated the Queen and Christian mimicked Prince Charles and they managed to elicit details about the pregnant Duchess’ medical condition.

Driving instructor Jeff Sellick, who taught Ms Saldanha last year, said she was a “delight to teach”.

“I heard about it yesterday and it’s just such a shame she was such a nice person, I can only imagine what happened would have played heavily on her mind,” he told Sky News.

“I just feel for the family at this point because she must have been deeply traumatised by what happened to her.”

A fierce online storm erupted as soon as news of the nurse’s death emerged, with both presenters bombarded by messages on Twitter and the radio station’s own comment section deluged.

At the time, the station’s website had still been promoting the video of the prank call, but this was later removed.

Online critics called for the presenters to resign and some claimed they had “blood on their hands”.

Ms Saldanha, who had worked at the hospital for four years, was found dead at an address near King Edward VII’s Hospital in London on Friday morning.

Her family said in a statement: “We as a family are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha.”

A spokesman for Prince William and wife Kate said: “Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII’s Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha’s family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”

“At no point did the Palace complain to the hospital about the incident. On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.”

The King Edward VII’s Hospital said: “It is with very deep sadness that we confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, Jacintha Saldanha.

“Jacintha has worked at the King Edward VII’s Hospital for more than four years. She was an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues.

“We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time.”