Radio bosses insist they tried to check before broadcast

By Kathy Marks

Station says it made several attempts to speak to hospital after prank call.

Prince William is expected to stay with his wife Catherine until at least the end of the week. Photo / AP
Prince William is expected to stay with his wife Catherine until at least the end of the week. Photo / AP

The Sydney radio station which made the hoax royal call that ended in tragedy tried repeatedly to call the London hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge before broadcasting it, according to its owners, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA).

SCA's chief executive, Rhys Holleran, told Fairfax Radio: "We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions. We wanted to speak to them about it."

Last night, the two 2DayFM presenters, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, were telling their side of the story in TV interviews.

The prank triggered a storm of international condemnation after it was implicated in the apparent suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who answered the call.

The federal Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said yesterday that the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the media regulator, was considering initiating an inquiry.

The authority is in talks with SCA, which saw its shares fall by nearly 8 per cent yesterday morning.

- AAP reported that activist group Anonymous posted a YouTube video calling on the station to sack the hosts. "You have placed your advertisers at risk - their databases, their websites, their online advertising," said a digitally altered voice.

"We will not listen to any more excuses. We will not let you escape your responsibility ... This is no laughing matter. This is your one and only chance to make amends. You have one week to do so."

The company is to conduct an internal inquiry, and the affair is also being investigated by Britain's Metropolitan Police, who may interview Greig and Christian. Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two originally from India, was found dead in her apartment on Friday.

With both SCA and the media authority inundated with complaints about the stunt, in which Greig and Christian impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles, the company has gone on the offensive.

Sandy Kaye, a "crisis consultant" engaged at the weekend, accused the British media of tipping the blame onto 2DayFM.

"The backlash is just ferocious," she told Melbourne's Age newspaper. "Australia seems to be much more balanced. In the UK it's like they're on a witch-hunt ... and what's incredible to me is it's so much easier for the British media to have us as the target. They haven't once looked at the hospital."

King Edward VII Hospital, where the Duchess was being treated for acute morning sickness, has insisted it gave support to Saldanha and a second nurse who revealed personal details of the Duchess' condition. Hospital chairman Lord Glenarthur described the prank as "truly appalling".

Despite a series of controversial stunts at 2DayFM, many of them involving the DJ Kyle Sandilands, Holleran denied there was a cultural problem at the network.

But former hosts disagreed. One told News Ltd she had been encouraged by her director to make listeners cry - and was paid A$50 ($62.89) when she succeeded.

Another, Amber Petty, a 2DayFM breakfast presenter for four years, said humiliating stunts were "very much part of the culture". She added: "It's not all commercial radio, it's that company. They just want you to be talked about; they don't care whether it's good or bad."

Greig and Christian, who went to ground on Saturday, are said to be "completely shattered". Both have been suspended indefinitely, and the company has declined to say whether they will keep their jobs.

Kaye said the station was "seriously concerned" about the mental health of the pair, particularly Greig.

"She is not at all in good shape."

- NZ Herald

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