Austereo responds to prank-turned-tragedy
The CEO of radio network Austereo says "nobody could have reasonably foreseen" that a prank their station pulled on a nurse at the Duchess Catherine's hospital, could have resulted in her suicide. Lifeline: 13 11 14PT1M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2b21a 620 349 December 8, 2012
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The CEO of the company that owns embattled radio station 2DayFM has defended the presenters involved in the royal prank phone call, saying there was no way they could have foreseen the tragic outcome of their actions.
British nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found dead three days after she connected two 2DayFM DJs to a nurse on the ward of the Duchess of Cambridge, believing them to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Police are not treating Ms Saldanha's death as suspicious and numerous British media outlets have labelled it a suicide.
Couldn't be foreseen ... Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran. Photo: Justin McManus
Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, said the presenters behind the call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, were "completely shattered" by the nurse's death.
The radio station has pulled the pair off air, he said as a mark of respect.
Mr Holleran refused to specify whether the nurse’s permission was sought before the segment aired, or at what point the company obtained legal advice.
Under fire ... radio presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
He described the nurse's death as ‘‘a tragic event that could not have reasonably been foreseen ... we are confident we haven’t done anything illegal’’.
Austereo has already had two licence conditions imposed upon them: one relating to decency following fellow presenter Kyle Sandilands’ description of a journalist as a ‘‘fat slag’’ and one relating to the protection of children following a segment where a teenage girl was hooked up to a lie detector and asked about her sex life.
Holleran would not say if Austereo was now concerned about losing its broadcasting licence.
He said the company had expressed its regret in a statement but had not contacted the nurse’s family directly, though he would not ‘‘rule out’’ doing so later.
Earlier on Saturday, Southern Cross Austereo issued a statement which 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.
"Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) and 2Day FM are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII's Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world.
"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. 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."
Ms Saldanha earlier this week answered a call to the hospital from Greig and Christian posing as the Queen and Prince Charles. She was taken in and passed the call to the ward nurse.
The pair were given confidential details on the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated for acute morning sickness.
"We can confirm that Jacintha was recently the victim of a hoax call ...," hospital chief executive John Lofthouse told reporters on Friday afternoon, confirming her death.
Earlier in the week, Mr Lofthouse described the prank as "foolish" and said the hospital would review its telephone protocol as a result. Ms Saldanha was not disciplined over the incident.
He described Ms Saldanha, married and 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.
A brief statement from relatives said Ms Saldanha's family was "deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Jacintha" and asked for "privacy at this difficult time".
News of Ms Saldanha's death was acknowledged by the royal family.
"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," said a statement issued by St James's Palace.
A royal aide confirmed to Sky News that no complaint was lodged with the hospital following the prank.
Greig and Christian apologised for their "lighthearted" prank, but have been bombarded with online abuse for their stunt and have since disabled their Twitter accounts.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
- with AAP