Aussie radio boss says station did not break any rules
Published Saturday, December 8, 2012 8:08AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 8, 2012 4:51PM EST
The Australian radio station behind a prank call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated is insisting it broke no rules, while the hospital itself is condemning the hoax.
One of the nurses caught up in the hoax, Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was found dead early Friday at a nurses' housing facility near the hospital where Prince William's wife, the former Kate Middleton, was treated for severe morning sickness.
Police have made no connection between her death and the prank call, but it is widely speculated she died because of the stress based on reports she answered the call and transferred it to another nurse on the ward where Kate was being treated.
On Saturday, chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital in London Lord Glenarthur wrote to the owner of the 2DayFM radio station that broadcast the prank, to express his outrage. In his letter to the chairman of Southern Cross Austereo, which was made available to the media, he wrote that the incident led to “the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.
"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling,” wrote Glenarthur.
"The longer-term consequence has been reported around the world, and is, frankly, tragic beyond words."
The hospital did not comment when asked by The Associated Press whether it believed the prank call had directly caused Saldanha's death, only saying that the protest letter spoke for itself.
Two large companies have now suspended their advertising on the popular Sydney radio station 2DayFM. The country’s independent broadcast regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), has received several complaints about the hoax and Australia’s communications minister says there will be an investigation.
But Rhys Holleran, the CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, told reporters Saturday the station did nothing wrong.
"This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we're deeply saddened by it," Holleran said during a news conference in Melbourne. "I spoke to both presenters early this morning and it's fair to say they're completely shattered."
While defending the stations conduct, he said the DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been offered counselling. “We're very confident that we haven't done anything illegal... What happened was incredibly tragic and we're deeply saddened and we're incredibly affected by that," said Holleran.
The radio show hosts have been taken off the air indefinitely, but station officials said the duo has not been fired.
The DJs also disabled their Twitter accounts after being bombarded by thousands of negative comments.
Neil Hedley, a former morning radio host and current columnist for Sympatico.ca, says he has little sympathy for the DJs, saying at some point in the last few years, radio prank calls took a turn from harmless fun to all-out cruelty.
“These calls have been around forever; it’s just lately that they’ve become cruel. And that is partly our fault, as a society, because we take so much joy in other people’s embarrassment and suffering,” he told CTV News Channel.
Sydney 2Day FM announced through its Facebook page Friday that Greig and Christian had been taken off air indefinitely.
The station has a history of controversy. Earlier this year, the station was reprimanded by the ACMA after a radio host talked a 14-year-old girl into revealing on air that she had been raped. That incident too prompted community outrage and led to two five-year licence probations for breaching Australia's Broadcasting Services Act.
On Saturday, Police released a grainy photo of Saldanha, saying she was a native of India and had lived in England with family for the past nine years.
She had a partner, Benedict Barboza, and a 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter.
The hospital praised her as a "first-class nurse" who was well-respected and popular among colleagues during her four years working there.
Following the hoax, a hospital spokesperson said Saldanha had not been disciplined as a result of the prank.
In a statement, Saldanha's family said they were "deeply saddened" by the death and asked for privacy.
Police said her death is being treated as "unexplained” and a coroner will determine her cause of death next week.
St. James's Palace, the office of the duchess and her husband Prince William, expressed sadness at Saldanha's death, but insisted it had not complained about the hoax.
With files from The Associated Press