(Corrects dates in paragraph 15, makes clear the reprimand was
in 2010; corrects spelling of nurse's name, paragraph 9)
* Nurse who took phone call at hospital committed suicide
* Hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife at time
* Radio hosts off the air, say they "completely shattered"
* Hoax stirs debate on ethical standards in Australia media
* Two major companies suspend advertising on 2DayFM station
By Morag MacKinnon
PERTH, Australia, Dec 8 The Australian radio
station behind a prank phone call to a London hospital that was
treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate said on Saturday it
had done nothing wrong and no one could have foreseen the tragic
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
on Friday in a suspected suicide.
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
On Saturday, 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
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 messages.
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.
In 2010, 2DayFM was reprimanded by Australia's independent
communications regulator after a radio host in 2009 talked a
14-year-old girl into revealing on air that she had been raped,
prompting community outrage and an advertiser backlash.
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
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 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 public affection.
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.
(Additional reporting by Tim Castle in London; Writing by
Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Paul Tait)