Australian radio station escapes license suspension for royal hospital prank call

2DayFM, the radio station responsible for the hoax call after which nurse Jacintha Saldanha killed herself in 2012, will educate staff in media ethics

The Australian radio station that broadcast the royal hospital prank call in 2012 has escaped a suspension of its licence after reaching a settlement with broadcasting authorities, but must abide by a rule prohibiting it from broadcasting a person’s statement without consent.

2DayFM has agreed to broadcast a special three-hour program about media ethics and mental health to raise public awareness, as well as implement an ethics and media law training program for all staff.

The resolution comes two-and-a-half years after 2DayFM presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig imitated the Queen and Prince Charles and made a hoax call to the London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the night sister at the King Edward VII hospital who transferred the call to the nurse treating the Duchess, killed herself three days later.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) initially found that 2DayFM broke the law but the finding was challenged by the licensee all the way to the high court, which in March found in favour of the regulator.

Despite losing the legal battle, the radio station managed to avoid a harsher penalty from Acma which may have forced it off air for a period of time, resulting in a substantial loss of advertising revenue.

Acma has, however, imposed special conditions on its licence which prohibit the station from broadcasting a person’s statement without their consent.

“The combined approach of the special broadcast and targeted training program, together with the imposition of a new licence condition, presents a positive alternative to what would have otherwise been a brief suspension of 2DayFM’s licence,” Acma chairman Chris Chapman said.

“This is a much more constructive way of ensuing future compliance by 2DayFM with important community safeguards.’

Broadcasting regulations dictate that broadcasters will not record and broadcast private conversations without consent and that people involved in entertainment shows will not be treated in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner.

“These really are matters of genuine, current public concern and debate, and this contribution to the ongoing conversation is, in the Acma’s view, better than the silence that would have been the result if the Acma had suspended the licence for a brief time,” Chapman said.

Greig, who no longer works for 2DayFM, travelled to the UK to address the inquest into Saldanha’s death, saying she wished she had “tried harder to stop the prank from airing”.

“To fellow announcers and DJs I urge you to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable and to consider the feeling of others when trying to make a joke. The joke should always be on us, the DJs‚” Greig said in 2014.

The inquest found that the mother of two had hanged herself. “I am satisfied that Jacintha Saldanha took her own life,” Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said. “At the time, the hoax was clearly pressing on her mind as were the difficulties she had been experiencing with her colleague.”


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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