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Anger as royal radio pranksters quit show

Last updated 15:49 08/12/2012
Fairfax Australia

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.

Pair off air after royal hoax death

Nurse in royal hoax found dead

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Royal hoax death
Reuters Zoom
An ambulance outside the apartment building following the death of a nurse who took a hoax call concerning the Duchess of Cambridge's treatment.

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The suspected suicide of a British nurse who received a prank call from Australian radio DJs has resulted in major public backlash against the radio station and the duo behind the call.

Corporations have started pulling advertising from the 2Day FM radio station while calls are made for the DJs to resign and face criminal charges.
 
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has received numerous complaints about the prank, which has been linked with nurse Jacintha Saldanha's suspected suicide.
 
Jacintha Saldanha was found dead overnight, just days after she answered a call at London's King Edward VII Hospital from radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian about patient, the Duchess of Cambridge.

She has reportedly passed the on to a ward nurse who disclosed personal information about Kate Middleton, who was  receiving treatment for acute morning sickness.
 
Australia supermarket giant Coles and Telstra announced today that they had decided to pull advertising from the radio station in response to the prank call and the death.
 
A spokesman for Telstra said the company had pulled all advertising until an investigation into the matter had concluded.
 
A decision about whether to investigate the call for possible breaches of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice was one for an independent regulator, Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said.
 
Australian Prime Minister described the hoax as a terrible tragedy.
 
A Facebook page set up to condemn the presenters who made the call included comments which called for the pair to face criminal charges.
 
"People need to stop and think of outcomes from what they do -  what might seem like a joke to you, can make someone else feel  low,'' a nurse wrote on the Facebook page.
 
But others urged the public not to engage in a witch hunt.''How were they (Greig and Christian) to predict someone ...  would react so badly?'' one person wrote.
 
British food critic Giles Coren added his opinion, saying: ''I love Australians. It isn't their fault. We probably invented the prank call. But anyone who thinks a prank call is funny is a c***.''

The anger continued on Twitter, with one user writing "Remember that #RoyalPrank ...? Yeah, the girl you humiliated is dead. You must feel great."
 
Prince William and his wife have issued a statement expressing their condolences over the death of Saldanha, the 46-year-old mother of two duped by the DJs, who had suddenly found herself at the vortex of a global incident.

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"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," a statement from William's office said.

They stressed they had not complained about the hoax call, and indeed offered praise for the staff.

The hospital, too, stressed that Saldanha had not been reprimanded.

HOSTS STAND DOWN

The two radio hosts behind the prank call will not immediately be returning to the show in the wake of the nurse's death.

The hosts were pretending to be the Prince of Wales and the Queen. Saldanha, a mother of two, was reportedly working on reception when they called.

She was thought to be the person who took the call and put it through to the duchess's ward, where a second nurse disclosed private details of her condition.

During the call DJ Mel Greig pretended to be the Queen and Christian was in the background mimicking Prince Charles. Greig had rung reception and asked to speak to "my grand-daughter Kate". 

Saldanha, thinking she was speaking to the Queen, said, "Oh yes, just hold on ma'am" before putting the call through to a duty nurse.

The DJs were told by the second nurse who took the call from Saldanha that the duchess "hasn't had any retching with me and she's been sleeping on and off."

The nurse went on to tell the personalities that the duchess had had an uneventful night, as a dog barking sound was heard in the background.

The alleged queen and prince talk about travelling to the hospital to check in on the patient.

The Royal family was furious about the hoax call and the hospital has deplored it, saying it was a "foolish prank".

2Day FM chief executive Rhys Holleran said  the hosts were shocked by the news of Saldanha's death and have decided not to return to the show until further notice.

The decision was made "out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy," Holleran said.

The hosts would not be making any comments at this stage, he said.

The station placed the recording of the conversation on its website, but later said it was sorry.

"We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we'd be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents," Greig and Christian said in a joint statement with the station at the time. "We're very sorry if we've caused any issues and we're glad to hear that Kate is doing well."

It was not clear what would happen to the hosts, but comments on the 2Day FM website have called for the duo to resign as it's the "right" or the "only" thing to do. Other posts told the DJs they had "blood on your hands".

Christian, who earlier this week had reportedly apologised for the prank, carried on tweeting about it, his latest tweet just yesterday, saying "MORE on the #royalprank after 7.30 tonight," The Telegraph reported.

The DJs were understood to have continued to advertise the stunt and Christian was understood to have been boasting about it via Twitter.

The two presenters deleted their Twitter accounts shortly after the death news broke.

The hospital called the prank "journalistic trickery" and said earlier this week that it was considering legal action.

- Stuff

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