Hospital condemns hoax after nurse dies
The London hospital where a nurse was duped into helping reveal details about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health has condemned the prank phone call as “truly appalling”.
In a letter to the Australian radio station 2day FM’s parent company, Lord Glenarthur, chairman of King Edward VII’s Hospital, said he wanted to “protest” against the “extremely foolish” gag.
His comments follow the apparent suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha (46) yesterday morning.
Lord Glenarthur said her death was “tragic beyond words”.
Ms Saldanha, who was working as a stand-in receptionist, took a call on Wednesday from the two presenters impersonating Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. She put the call through to a colleague who described the pregnant Duchess's condition in detail.
The presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, apologised for their actions, as did their radio station. They have now been taken off the air and the station has been inundated with complaints.
But Rhys Holleran, chief executive of 2Day FM’s parent company Southern Cross Austereo, stood by the two DJs, and said they were shocked and devastated by the news of Ms Saldanha’s death.
At a news conference in Melbourne today 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.”
Mr Holleran said the pair had been offered counselling, adding: “These people aren’t machines, they’re human beings. We’re all affected by this.”
He would not say who came up with the idea for the call, only that “these things are often done collaboratively.”
He said he was confident the station hadn’t broken any laws, noting that prank calls in radio have been happening “for decades”.
“They’re not just part of one radio station or one network or one country — they’re done worldwide,” he said.
In the wake of the tragedy Southern Cross Austereo said that, by mutual consent, the hosts would not be returning to their show until further notice.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which regulates radio broadcasting, has been inundated with complaints about the prank call.
A spokeswoman for the ACMA said it is currently in the process of discussing the matter with the Sydney-based station.
The news of Ms Saldanha’s death has led the headlines in the Australian media, with calls for the DJs to be sacked.
It was reported the advertisers are already deserting the radio station, including supermarket giant Coles and telecommunications company Telstra.
There has been an angry backlash from people in Australia, and almost 14,000 people have left comments on the station’s Facebook page.
Many called for the pair to be sacked permanently, and others said they had “blood on their hands”.
The two presenters remarked during their show how their efforts were the “easiest prank call ever made”, as they put on mock British accents they later described as “terrible”.
The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.
In their initial apology the two presenters said: “We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we’d be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents.
“We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we’re glad to hear that Kate is doing well.”
A flood of complaints has been made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates radio broadcasting.
Chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement: “These events are a tragedy for all involved and I pass on my heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased nurse in London.
“The ACMA does not propose to make any comments at this stage, but will be engaging with the licensee, Today FM Sydney, around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call.”
The tragedy has even reached Australia’s political class. Prime Minister Julia Gillard called Ms Saldanha’s death a terrible tragedy, saying: “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.”