'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
- 'Soft and sympathetic': British press critical
- Nurse's family 'just cannot cope'
- 2Day FM cancel show
- Prank should trigger media soul-searching
- "Nothing will change"
THE radio presenters at the centre of the royal prank call have claimed they were not ultimately responsible for a stunt that has caused outrage at a London hospital, provoked fury in Buckingham Palace and been linked to the death of a British nurse.
We just made the phone call and that was it. We don't get to make those decisions, we don't get to make those calls, that's done by other people.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian, the presenters of 2DayFM's Hot 30 show, came out of hiding to issue tearful apologies on Monday night on two television programs. But they sought to distance themselves from responsibility for the prank call to the King Edward VII's Hospital on December 4 in which they pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles and were put through to a nurse who spoke about the medical condition of the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.
Remorse ... a tearful Mel Greig, who along with fellow 2Day FM presenter Michael Christian was interviewed by Tracy Grimshaw on Channel Nine's A Current Affair. Photo: Channel 9
''You prank someone, you record it, then it goes to the other departments to work out what they want to do with it,'' Greig told Nine's A Current Affair. ''It's been done for years. It was routine for us. It wasn't anything different.''
Asked by host Tracy Grimshaw what guidelines were in place to determine what was acceptable in a prank call, a visibly upset Greig said: ''It's not up to us to make that decision. We just record it and then it goes to the other departments to work out. I don't know what they then do with it. We just do what we do, which is make those calls.''
Her co-host added ''there's a process in place'' for what goes to air, and the royal prank ''was put through every filter that everything is put through''.
Michael Christian. Photo: Channel nine
''We just made the phone call and that was it. We don't get to make those decisions, we don't get to make those calls, that's done by other people. Our role is just to record and get the audio and wait to be told whether it's OK or not OK.''
Greig and Christian spoke of being "shattered, gutted, heartbroken" by the death.
Christian told A Current Affair the idea for the call came in a brainstorming meeting with the rest of the show's team.
"It was just the team sitting down before the show - just had the idea for just a simple harmless phone call," Christian said. "... when we thought about making a call, it was going to go for 30 seconds. We were going to be hung up on, and that was it."
Greig added: "We thought a hundred people before us would've tried it. We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate, let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on."
Asked how they reacted when told of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha - who put through their prank call to the nurse on duty on the Duchess of Cambridge's ward - both DJs broke down in tears. Greig said it was "gut wrenching", the worst phone call of her life.
Christian agreed, saying: "Shattered, gutted, heartbroken and obviously you know... our deepest sympathies are with the family and the friends".
Their account tallies with a statement issued by the station's owner, Southern Cross Austereo, on Monday.
An internal review had found ''company protocols were adhered to'' in airing the segment. They included ''internal legal review'' and ''authorisation''.
The chief executive of the company, Rhys Holleran, told 3AW's Neil Mitchell on Monday that five attempts had been made to contact the hospital before the segment was broadcast.
''We don't claim to be perfect and we always strive to do better,'' Mr Holleran said. ''We have initiated a detailed and rigorous review of our policies and procedures to inform any improvements we can make.
''We are also providing support to our people who are deeply saddened by this tragic and unforseen event.''
The call was lauded as a coup by the hosts and other media outlets last week. Sydney's Daily Telegraph hailed the pair the day after the call as having ''bagged the best international scoop so far in the unfolding soap opera that is the Kate Middleton pregnancy''.
But following the discovery of the body of Jacintha Saldanha, who is believed to have taken her own life, - her brother claimed she had ''died of shame'' - things turned sour for the presenters and the station they represent.
Facing an expected advertiser backlash, all advertising was suspended from 2DayFM on Friday. The blackout has been extended to Wednesday and was described as being ''until further notice''.
The Hot 30 show has also been taken off air and the future of its presenters is uncertain.
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.