2Day FM in crisis over prank call 'tragedy'

2Day FM in crisis over prank call 'tragedy'

2Day FM in crisis over prank call 'tragedy'

Updated 10 December 2012, 12:20 AEDT

Sydney radio station 2Day FM pledges to "fully cooperate" with any investigations into the apparent suicide of a London nurse who was prank-called by two of its presenters.

Sydney radio station 2Day FM has told the London hospital involved in the royal prank call that it will "fully cooperate" with all investigations.

The station held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss what to do in the wake of the apparent suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who was prank called by two DJs last week.

Last week the station's evening presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian called the King Edward VII's Hospital, which was treating Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine, pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles.

Ms Saldanha, 46, answered the phone before transferring the call to a colleague, who divulged details of the Duchess of Cambridge's bout of acute morning sickness.

Ms Saldanha was later found dead in her apartment on Friday after an apparent suicide.

The royal family did not make an official complaint over the privacy breach, but the hospital's chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur on Saturday condemned the prank, saying it resulted in the "humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses".

"King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call," he said in a letter to Austereo.

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling," he said.

Yesterday Southern Cross Austereo confirmed its board of directors met to discuss the growing furore over the hoax which forced the presenters off air and the station to suspend all its advertising.

Last night a letter in reply from the company's chairman Max Moore-Wilton was made public.

"We are all saddened by the events of the last few days. They are truly tragic," Mr Moore-Wilton's letter said.

"It is too early to know the full details leading to this tragic event and we are anxious to review the results of an investigation that may be made available to us or made public.

"We can assure you that we will be fully cooperative with all investigations. As we have said in our own statements on the matter, the outcome was unforeseeable and very regrettable."

He said the company took immediate action and is "reviewing the broadcast and the processes involved".

Meanwhile, police in New South Wales have confirmed they had been contacted by the London Metropolitan Police.

"They simply wanted to touch base, raise the issues, make us aware of them," Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas said.

"It may be that they may wish to speak to someone at the station at a point down the track."

Did they break the law?

On Saturday Southern Cross Austereo chief executive Rhys Holleran said the two presenters involved were "shattered" by Ms Saldanha's death, but said he was confident no laws were broken.

But legal opinions are divided over whether the broke any laws or codes of conduct.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has not commented publicly on the affair, but says it will be engaging with the station around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call.

But a legal academic has told ABC News Breakfast that 2Day FM may have breached state laws, as well as the commercial broadcasting code.

Sydney University law professor Barbara McDonald says the radio code requires consent before conversations are broadcast, and state laws also offer protection.

"New South Wales has a surveillance devices act which says that a person mustn't record a private conversation - and a private conversation in NSW includes a conversation to which they are a party," she said.

"So you're not able to record a conversation that you're having with someone else without their consent."

A former presenter at 2Day FM, Wendy Harmer, says the presenters should have gained consent from the nurses involved to broadcast the recordings, or revealed during the call that it was a hoax.

Ms Harmer told Radio National's Breakfast program that the incident could spell the end of the tradition of prank calling.

"Radio insiders have been telling me for a long time now that they believe that 2Day FM has been skating so close to the rules and flouting the rules that they think the entire industry is going to be dragged into a new era of self-regulation," she said.

"Some of these calls even achieve sort of whistleblower status, and perhaps in revealing the lack of security around the future queen of England, I mean it could be argued that they've done just that. But obviously the results have been extremely tragic," she said.

At his first public appearance since his wife's hospitalisation, on Saturday night, Prince William appeared in good humour, making jokes at the expense of British tennis player Tim Henman at a gala charity dinner.

But all is not back to normal for the royal couple. Prince William pulled out of another public engagement on Sunday in order to spend time with his wife. It is understood her condition has worsened again.

A spokesman for St James's Palace says in order to protect her privacy, it will not be providing regular commentary on the Duchess's condition.

'Hard to believe'

Family and friends of Ms Saldanha have paid tribute to the mother of two.

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Ms Saldanha's husband Benedict Barboza wrote: "I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India."

While media are calling Ms Saldanha's death a suspected suicide, the police, ahead of an autopsy next week, are saying it remains unexplained, though they are not treating it as suspicious.

Over 300 people reportedly attended the memorial service for the nurse held in Shriva, 400 kilometres from the southern Indian city of Bangalore, on Sunday.

Ms Saldanha's family living in the town expressed shock at her passing.

"We were shocked to hear from her husband (Mr Barboza) that Jacintha was no more. He did not tell us that she committed suicide," Jacintha's sister-in-law, Irene D'Souza said.

"It is hard to believe Jacintha could commit suicide, as she was not such a woman to do it."

Ms D'Souza said Ms Saldanha was planning to celebrate Christmas in India with her family.

"But today we are going to the church to pray for her soul and for her children who are going through a bad time," she said.

Ms Saldanha's cousin, Mary, said she was committed to her job and her family.

"She must have been very disturbed to take such a drastic step," she said.

"She had plans to start a nursing centre in India and encouraged several young girls to study medicine. Her positive energy made all the difference."

Tributes to Ms Saldanha were also placed outside the central London hospital and the nurses' accommodation block where her body was discovered.

ABC/AFP

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