'The worst phone call I've ever had in my life'
2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian break their silence on how they felt hearing of the death of Jacintha Saldanha after their prank phone call. Lifeline: 13 11 14PT3M17S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2b6eo 620 349 December 11, 2012
As races go, it was sombre and a little unsettling. In the national TV ratings it was also a photo finish.
Australia's two rival current affairs programs - A Current Affair and Today Tonight - both spoke to the embattled 2DayFM DJs who featured in the station's disastrous royal prank, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, last night.
The win, such as it is, was Nine's with A Current Affair drawing 1.094m, while Seven's Today Tonight trailed (slightly) with 1.023m.
Those two numbers will change slightly in the next week. Today they will be adjusted to reflect the actual start and finish times of the programs, and in a week's time they will have "+7" ratings added, that is, people who recorded the show and played it back later.
But neither program delivered blockbuster numbers overall - a sign, perhaps, that the audience is tiring of the story a little more quickly than the media is.
Interestingly, the margin between the two shows stretched significantly in Sydney and Melbourne, and in those key markets A Current Affair took a serious lead.
In Sydney, 348,000 watched A Current Affair, compared to 257,000 watching Today Tonight.
In Melbourne, 359,000 watched A Current Affair, compared to 229,000 watching Today Tonight.
Today Tonight gained its lost ground back in Perth, the network's ancient stronghold, where it more than doubled A Current Affair's audience: 202,000 compared to 73,000.
A Current Affair also delivered strong numbers in regional areas.
Inclusive of regional ratings, A Current Affair's total audience was 1.65 million viewers, compared to Today Tonight's 1.41 million.
Capital city and regional ratings are collated separately and rarely reported as a total figure because they relate to separate advertising markets.
Those results generally reflect Seven's news and current affairs performance overall: in a strong position nationally, but losing in the key markets of Sydney and Melbourne.
A Current Affair's lead is also no doubt due, in part, to its established form with turning most or all of the program over to an interview with a single subject or topic.
They do it more frequently, with better effect - the best examples in recent memory include Bert and Patti Newton, Lindy Chamberlain and five occasions with the show's coverage of the Hey Dad! scandal.
Host Tracy Grimshaw, in particular, is extremely comfortable in that format. During both interviews the pair appeared to be in an extremely brittle state.
Both apologised for the prank, in which they telephoned the King Edward VII Hospital, pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles and blagged a nurse into talking about the Duchess of Cambridge's condition.
At different points of the interviews, both DJs broke down.
Greig described the telephone call in which she was told nurse Jacintha Saldanha had died was "gut wrenching".
Christian agreed: "Shattered, gutted, heartbroken and obviously you know... our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends."
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.