High Court showdown: Michael Christian and Mel Greig.

High Court showdown: Michael Christian and Mel Greig. Photo: Channel Nine

The battle between 2Day FM and the broadcasting watchdog over the "royal hoax" scandal has reached the highest court in Australia.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been granted special leave to appeal to the High Court, where it will argue its initial findings against the radio station should be upheld. 

In December 2012, 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales in a prank call to a London hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge was a patient. The nurse who was tricked into transferring the call to the duchess' ward, Jacintha Saldanha, killed herself days later.

ACMA found that 2Day FM's parent company, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), had breached NSW surveillance laws by recording and airing the segment without consent – therefore violating a licence condition by using its broadcasting service "in the commission of an offence". 

SCA angrily countered that ACMA had no right to determine criminal guilt. 

The looming High Court showdown follows a protracted tussle in the Federal Court, after 2Day FM sought to have ACMA permanently restrained from finding it breached its licence in the absence of a criminal conviction.

The Federal Court initially determined that the watchdog had the power to decide if 2Day FM breached its licence through its recording and broadcast of the prank call.

However, that ruling was effectively reversed in March this year. The court also ordered ACMA to suppress its report on the matter. 

The station argued ACMA had been acting as "policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, prison warden and parole officer". 

ACMA will now argue in the High Court that its initial findings were valid. Should it succeed, ACMA may sanction 2Day FM for the controversial prank, possibly by suspending its licence. 

But the station's management has claimed that even its rivals are worried by ACMA's actions.

"All commercial radio and television broadcasters are very concerned that the Australian Communications and Media Authority decided several years ago to reverse its previous application of broadcasting law and to judge for itself the alleged criminal guilt of broadcasters rather than leaving that judgment to the courts based on proper evidence," Rhys Holleran, SCA's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Southern Cross Austereo considers that the unanimous decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court is completely correct and will continue to argue its position in the High Court."

ACMA has not commented on the matter.

Christian remains employed by SCA and was crowned the network's "next top jock" six months after Ms Saldanha's suicide.

Greig, however, parted acrimoniously with the company. Earlier this year, she told Channel Seven's Sunday Night program that she had asked her bosses to disguise the identity of the two nurses' voices in the prank segment. She claimed her suggestion was dismissed. 

The inquest into Ms Saldanha's death was initially scheduled for May 2013. It has been postponed twice to allow the coroner time to seek more information. 

mlallo@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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