Royal hoax duo taken off air
King Edward VII Private Hospital in London. Photo: Getty Images
Sydney radio station 2Day FM is facing a serious backlash over a royal phone prank after the death of a British nurse, and could potentially lose its broadcast licence.
Sydney 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been taken off air after their hoax call to London's King Edward VII Hospital following the death on Friday of respected nurse and mother Jacintha Saldanha, 46.
Ms Saldanha could not be revived after being found unconscious at an address near the hospital at 9.35am (local time) on Friday.
Police are not treating her death as suspicious.
Ms Saldanha was on duty at the hospital earlier this week when Greig and Christian telephoned, impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles as they sought details of Prince William's pregnant wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
The DJs are thought to have been put through by Ms Saldanha to the ward nurse looking after the Duchess, who was being treated for acute morning sickness
The pair used fake upper-class voices as they were patched through to the nurse, who relayed confidential details of Catherine's condition.
The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.
News of Ms Saldanha's death was acknowledged by the royal family.
"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha," a statement issued by St James's Palace said.
"Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."
Hospital chief executive John Lofthouse described Ms Saldanha, married with two children, as a "first-class nurse who cared diligently for hundreds of patients".
"Everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with her family and her friends," he said.
2Day FM's owners, Southern Cross Austereo, are expected to address the media in Melbourne at 2.30pm (AEDT).
The broadcast watchdog, the Australian
Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has flagged it will investigate the actions of the two presenters after receiving several complaints.
In May, ACMA warned the station it could lose its broadcasting licence for any repeat of offensive on-air comments after morning show presenter Kyle Sandilands called a female journalist a "fat slag" and threatened to "hunt her down".
Coles and Telstra have announced they are suspending their advertising on the station, while Optus has issued 2Day FM a "please explain".
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the incident as a "terrible tragedy".
"Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time," she said in a statement on Saturday.
Greig and Christian have been told not to comment on the matter.
A statement from Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) says the company is "deeply saddened by the tragic news".
"Chief executive officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters, they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances," it said.
"SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy."
Beyondblue depression initiative chairman Jeff Kennett, meanwhile, called on Australians to support the two radio hosts, who are facing a tirade of abuse on social media sites.
A Facebook page condemning their actions has been set up and they have deleted their Twitter accounts.
"When they did this they had no intention to cause harm, it was a harmless prank," Mr Kennett told ABC radio.
"Now they will be under extraordinary pressure and I just hope that they get our support and that their employer provides them with the professional support to help them get through what will be a terrible few weeks."
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell told reporters the two radio hosts must be feeling "terrible".
"I don't imagine in any way that those who were engaged in the typical FM radio stunt would have thought it would lead to this," he said.
"I think there are some people today who are suffering, not just the family of the nurse but those who in some way were involved with what appears to be the trigger for this tragedy."
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