License article

Radio station risks losing licence over tragic prank call

THE decision by the Sydney radio station 2DayFM to broadcast the royal prank call that led to the suicide of the British nurse Jacintha Saldanha will now be investigated by the media watchdog.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed it would inquire whether the licence holder, Today FM Sydney Pty Ltd, breached its licence conditions or the industry's code of practice. The watchdog is using its discretionary powers to initiate a rare ''own motion'' investigation rather than waiting for complaints.

It will examine whether the network breached standards of decency, invaded privacy or broke rules of consent.

Mrs Saldanha, the nurse who took the initial call, was found dead three days after she was duped by the prank, conducted by the DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. The British MP Keith Vaz has called on Austereo executives to fly to Britain to meet her grieving husband, son and daughter.

Mr Vaz said: ''What the family needs are the full facts. There are unexplained circumstances. The family want to know everything.''

The station faces losing its right to broadcast if it is found by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to have breached a licence condition. It may also be subject to tighter restrictions and a hefty fine.


The parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, also could be compelled to name the employees who approved the prank - something it has refused.

A 2DayFM spokeswoman said an internal investigation found that ''all procedures and protocols were adhered to'', though it has not released details of this investigation. The Southern Cross chief executive, Rhys Holleran, said the company ''welcomes the opportunity to participate in the ACMA investigation and will fully co-operate''.

This week, Mr Holleran said the station tried ''at least five times'' to get approval from the hospital. The hospital denies being contacted by 2DayFM and the station has not released phone records to prove the calls were made.

On Wednesday, Fairfax Media revealed that all 2DayFM presenters, producers and content managers receive training about ''decency and standards'' every three months. A source said the training includes advice ''not to air any prank calls without permission''.

In the face of continuing global media scrutiny, the company has gagged its employees.