Australian radio chair: Station reviewing policy after prank

Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australian radio station 2Day FM. Photo / Supplied
Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australian radio station 2Day FM. Photo / Supplied

Prime Minister John Key says it makes sense for the radio industry look at what they do on air following the death of a British nurse after Australian DJs prank-called the hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was staying.

The Australian radio station behind the call announced an immediate review of its broadcast practices after the debacle, which began with the prank.

Two radio DJs managed to impersonate Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles and received confidential information about the Duchess's medical condition, which was broadcast on-air. The controversial prank took a dark twist three days later with the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, who was duped by the DJs despite their Australian accents.

The death has sparked an angry backlash against the DJs, who have been taken off the air indefinitely.

Mr Key today told TVNZ's Breakfast he thought it "probably" made sense for the industry to have a look at what happened on radio.

But he said he would be surprised if prank calls could be stopped.

"I must admit when I heard the news on Saturday morning I felt quite sick, at one level. I also thought I wonder whether there's more to this, it felt a very extreme reaction, but who knows, and you feel enormously for that family. It's such an awful thing."

Radio Broadcasters Association CEO Bill Francis believes the series of events will be a wake-up call for all.

"My presumption is, is that radio stations will now look very clearly at their policies as to how this sort of stunt works, what damage it could cause," Mr Francis said.

After an emergency meeting, Max Moore-Wilton, the chairman of parent company Southern Cross Austereo, which owns the 2DayFM radio station, said in a letter to the hospital's chairman that the company will cooperate with any investigation.

"It is too early to know the full details leading to this tragic event and we are anxious to review the results of any investigation that may be made available to us or made public," he wrote. "I can assure you we are taking immediate action and reviewing the broadcast and processes involved."

"As we have said in our own statements on the matter, the outcome was unforeseeable and very regrettable," he wrote.

Australian police have confirmed they had been contacted by London police and said they would cooperate.

Police have not yet determined Saldanha's cause of death, but people from London to Sydney have been making the assumption she died because of stress from the call.

Both DJs involved apologised for the prank before Saldanha's death. Their Twitter accounts have been taken down after they were bombarded by thousands of abusive comments.

A spokeswoman said Sunday the two DJs want to speak out about Saldanha's death.

The station has a history of controversy, including airing a segment in which a 14-year-old girl revealed that she had been raped. It also ran a series of "Heartless Hotline" shows in which disadvantaged people were offered a prize that could be taken away from them by listeners.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates radio broadcasting, says it received complaints from around the world and is considering whether it should launch an investigation

Separately, Prince William has pulled out of attending the British Military Tournament, billed as "the largest display of military theatre in the world", citing Kate's illness.

The Duchess has been resting and has not been seen in public since leaving the hospital.

Officials from St. James's Palace have said the duchess is not yet 12 weeks pregnant. The child would be the first for her and William and would be third in line to the British throne.

- APNZ, AP and Newstalk ZB

- APNZ

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