Australian DJs apologize for royal prank call that went too far
Published Monday, December 10, 2012 6:07AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 10, 2012 1:35PM EST
After their morning show prank prompted an unlikely chain of events -- including a royal rebuke and the unexplained death of the nurse who fielded their call -- the two Australian radio hosts took to the airwaves again Monday.
2DayFM radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian broke their public silence in two televised interviews, starting with a sit-down on Australia's “A Current Affair.”
Sitting side-by-side, they both apologized for their call to the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness, in which they impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.
After their phone call was transferred to the ward where the pregnant Duchess was being treated, they managed to elicit confidential information about her condition.
In the days that followed, the station trumpeted the prank as it garnered headlines around the world. The mood changed three days later, however, when news broke that Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse at King Edward VII's Hospital who initially fielded the call, had been found dead.
On Monday, the hospital announced the launch of the Jacintha Saldanha Memorial Fund in honour of the nurse.
When asked to recall his initial reaction on hearing of Saldanha's death on Friday, Christian said he was "shattered, gutted, heartbroken."
Offering his sympathies, he said, "Mel and myself are incredibly sorry for the situation and what's happened.
"We hope that they're doing ok and they're getting the love and support that they deserve and need right now, but personally I'm ... gutted," he said, stifling tears.
Greig added, her eyes teary and voice trembling, "There's not a minute that goes by that we don't think about her family and what they must be going through. And the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching."
Both DJs remain suspended from work, and their radio station's parent company Southern Cross Austereo released a statement Monday announcing their 'Hot 30' show has been cancelled.
The company also said it is suspending all advertising on 2Day FM and instituting an organization-wide suspension of all prank calls.
"We don't claim to be perfect and we always strive to do better. We have initiated a detailed and rigorous review of our policies and procedures to inform any improvements we can make," SCA CEO Rhys Holleran said.
The DJs said Monday that, when their radio show team came up with the idea for the prank call, they never expected it would go so far.
"We just assumed we'd get cut off at every single point and that'd be it," Christian said, suggesting the humour was intended to be in their "horrible" impersonations.
"The entertainment value was in us," Greig added. "It was meant to be in our silly accents. That's where it was meant to end."
Neither mentioned having reservations about putting the prerecorded call on the airwaves, but the two DJs said the decision came from the company's executive ranks, a suggestion corroborated by Southern Cross Austereo's statement.
"The segment was referred to an internal review process which included internal legal review and authorization was granted to broadcast," the company said, noting it "does not consider that the broadcast of the segment has breached any relevant law, regulation or code."
In a separate interview broadcast on the "Today Tonight" program Monday night, Greig said she's haunted by what's happened, particularly since hearing of Saldanha's death.
"I remember that moment because I haven't stopped thinking about it since it happened, and I remember my first question was, 'Was she a mother?'"
Saldanha was a mother of two, commemorated by her husband Ben Barboza in a short note posted on Facebook.
"I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances," Barboza wrote. "She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."
Lord Glenarthur, chairman of the King Edward VII's Hospital, said the memorial fund was created as a way of remembering and honouring Saldanha.
"Jacintha Saldanha sadly died last week in tragic circumstances. She was an outstanding nurse whose loss has shocked and saddened everyone at the hospital. Following discussions with her family, we have now established the Jacintha Saldanha Memorial Fund in her memory," Glenarthur said in a statement.
All donations will go to Saldanha's family.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority said it has received complaints about the radio prank from around the world and is considering whether it should launch a probe.
And Australian authorities confirmed Sunday that they’ve been contacted by London Metropolitan Police about a possible investigation of the call.
Asked about the prospect of being summoned to a police inquiry in London, Greig said, "if that's going to make them feel better, then I'll do what I need to do, absolutely."
With files from The Associated Press