'Grovelling' hoaxers slammed by UK media

Last updated 17:44 11/12/2012
2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig
'GUTTED': 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig.

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British media have savaged Sydney radio's royal pranksters, with one commentator slamming their tearful television interviews as a "self-justifying sobfest".

The cynical UK coverage was in sharp contrast to the generally more sympathetic treatment the pair received in Australia.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian, whose 2Day FM show has been axed, were criticised for breaking their silence on TV current affairs programs rather than at a full media conference.

London's Sun newspaper described the "shamed" pair's apologies as "grovelling".

BBC TV highlighted that they did not seem bothered by the ethics of the prank, in which they posed as the Queen and Prince Charles in a telephone call to a London hospital to gain private information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.

A nurse duped by their call, 46-year-old mother of two Jacintha Saldanha, reportedly took her own life three days later.

The Daily Mail said the two radio hosts escaped a tough grilling on TV, describing as "soft and sympathetic" the line of questioning they faced on Channel Seven's Today Tonight.

"Miss Greig's mascara was running down her face as she tearfully recounted the events that have resulted in both of them being inundated with savage comments about their behaviour," the paper said.

Commentator Richard Littlejohn said: "Until they tried to present themselves as victims, I had a scintilla of sympathy for them.

"But for Michael Christian and Mel Greig to invite the world to share their pain is unforgivable. I'm sure their remorse was sincere. Turning their public apology into a self-indulgent, self-justifying sobfest was, however, utterly nauseating.

"I thought the Aussies were made of stronger stuff."

Whatever turmoil they were experiencing, he said, they had not endured a genuine human tragedy, unlike the nurse's family and friends.

The radio hoaxers said in TV interviews they were devastated, heartbroken and sorry if they unwittingly had any part in the nurse's death.

"If we played any involvement then we're very sorry for that. And time will only tell," said a tearful Greig.

"We're incredibly sorry for the harm that we may have helped contribute (to)," said Christian.

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They said there was no malice in their prank.

Greig said she was prepared to attend any inquest in London and see the nurse's family face to face.

"If that's something that they want to do, to get some closure, then I'll do that," she said.

"It was meant to be a silly little prank that so many people have done before. This wasn't meant to happen."

The radio station's owner, Southern Cross Austereo, reacted to growing alarm over the story by pulling the two hosts off air until further notice, axing their show, suspending all advertising on 2Day FM until further notice and suspending all prank calls across its network.

The company also reportedly cancelled its annual Christmas party, instead making a donation to the Lifeline and Beyond Blue charities.

The nurse's family are devastated by her death and "miss her every moment of every day", according to British Labour MP Keith Vaz, who met them at the House of Commons.

Flanked by Jacintha Saldanha's husband, Benedict Barboza, and her two teenage children, the politician said: "They want the facts to be established so that they can effectively grieve."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have sent their condolences to Saldanha's family.

Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, asked by Sky News what lessons needed to be learned, said: "I think we need to make sure that the right safeguards are in place, that the right training is in place, but I think it's too early for me to say whether this is something which is just an individual prank that went horribly wrong.

"My instinct is that this was an isolated incident with very exceptional circumstances."

- AAP

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