Nurse Jacintha Saldanha is seen in this undated handout
still image taken from video. REUTERS/Benedict
Barboza/Handout/ANI via Reuters TV
The London hospital that treated Prince William's
pregnant wife Kate has condemned an Australian radio station
that made a prank call seeking information about the duchess,
after the apparent suicide of a nurse who answered the phone.
There has been renewed soul-searching over media ethics after
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the nurse who was duped by the
station's call to the King Edward VII hospital, was found
dead in staff accommodation nearby on Friday (local time).
The owners of Sydney's 2DayFM said it had done nothing wrong
and no one could have foreseen the tragic outcome of the
stunt, but two leading Australian firms suspended their
The hoax, in which the radio hosts - posing as Britain's
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles despite Australian accents
- successfully inquired after Kate's medical condition, has
made worldwide headlines.
The hospital's chairman, Lord Glenarthur, urged the station's
owners to ensure that such an incident could never happen
"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
Southern Cross Austereo Chairman Max Moore-Wilton.
"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."
The immediate consequence had been the humiliation of two
"dedicated and caring" nurses, he said. "The longer term
consequence has been reported around the world and is,
frankly, tragic beyond words," Glenarthur added.
2day FM radio hosts Mel Greig (L) and Michael Christian.
REUTERS/Southern Cross Austereo/Handout
Australians from Prime Minister Julia Gillard to people
in the street expressed their sorrow and cringed at how the
hoax had crossed the line of acceptability.
Two large companies suspended their advertising from the
popular Sydney-based station and a media watchdog said it
would speak with 2DayFM's owners. Users of social media sites
such as Twitter expressed outrage.
The hoax also raised concerns about the ethical standards of
Australian media, as Britain's own media scramble to agree a
new system of self regulation and avoid state intervention
following a damning inquiry into reporting practices.
Southern Cross Austereo Chief Executive Rhys Holleran told a
news conference in Melbourne on Saturday that the company
would work with authorities in any investigation, but that it
was too early to draw conclusions. He said he was "very
confident" that the radio station had done nothing illegal.
"This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably
foreseen and we are deeply saddened by it. Our primary
concern at this stage is for the family of Nurse Saldanha."
Holleran added that 2DayFM radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael
Christian were "completely shattered" by Saldanha's death.
The pair will stay off the air indefinitely, he said.
Two high profile Australian firms, the Coles supermarket
group and phone company Telstra, said on Saturday that they
were suspending advertising with the station. Others were
expected to follow suit.
Austereo said all advertising on 2DayFM had been shelved
until at least Monday in a mark of respect to advertisers
whose Facebook pages were inundated with thousands of hate
The Twitter accounts of Greig and Christian were removed
shortly after news of the tragedy in London broke.
SOCIAL MEDIA OUTRAGE
Social media were inundated with angry messages to the radio
station and its hosts in what has become the latest shock
radio story to rile the Australian public.
Earlier this year 2DayFM was reprimanded by Australia's
independent communications regulator after a radio host
talked a 14-year-old girl into revealing on air that she had
been raped, prompting community outrage and an advertiser
So-called "shock jock" radio announcers are frequently
denounced in Australia for their deeply personal and often
derogatory attacks on politicians and ordinary citizens.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that the
independent broadcast regulator, the Australian
Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), had received
complaints about the royal hoax.
Saldanha lived with her husband and two children in the
western English city of Bristol. She moved to Britain from
India around 10 years ago, British media reports said.
Her husband's family, who live in the southern Indian state
of Karnataka, told news agency Asian News International they
would miss their "good-natured and beautiful" relative.
"At eight o'clock in the morning, he (Saldanha's husband)
rang up to say that she is no more, more than that we do not
know about what actually happened. She is dead, that's all,"
said Camril Barboza, Saldanha's mother-in-law.
The British royal family has long had an uneasy relationship
with the media, which sank to its lowest after the 1997 death
of Prince William's mother Diana in a Paris car crash.
Palace officials acted swiftly this summer when a French
magazine printed topless photos of Kate on holiday, taking
legal action to curb republication for fear of a repeat of
the relentless media pursuit of Diana.
Saldanha's death threatens to cast a pall over the
enthusiastic public welcome given to Kate's pregnancy, which
dominated newspaper front pages this week from her admission
to hospital on Monday to her departure on Thursday.
The royal family has emerged from years of criticism that it
was a dated and out of touch institution and is enjoying a
surge in popularity in Britain following Kate and William's
wedding last year. The impending royal baby will only boost
Elaborate celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the
queen coming to the throne and her appearance at the opening
of the London Olympics this summer - where a stunt double
parachuted into the stadium - have all contributed to a more
positive royal relationship with Britons.