Royal hoax radio station to make donation

Last updated 03:20 12/12/2012
2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig
'GUTTED': 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig.

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The owners of the Australian radio network at the centre of the royal prank call controversy have vowed to donate all profits from advertising on 2Day FM for the remainder of the year to ''an appropriate memorial fund'' that will ''directly benefit the family of Jacintha Saldanha'', the Indian-born British nurse who was found dead, apparently by her own hand, last Friday.

Southern Cross Austereo issued a statement late on Tuesday indicating the suspension of advertising on 2Day FM would end on Wednesday. Any profits from advertising between December 13 and 31 would be donated, and a minimum contribution of A$500,000 (NZ$627,000) would be made.

''We are very sorry for what has happened,'' said SCA chief Rhys Holleran. ''It is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts continue to be with the family. We hope that by contributing to a memorial fund we can help to provide the Saldanha family with the support they need at this very difficult time.''

News of the planned donation comes as the backlash against the radio network continues to build - not just in Australia, but especially in Britain, where interviews on Australian television on Monday with the hosts who recorded the prank call were derided for being too ''soft'' and ''sympathetic''.

In the interviews, 2Day presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig deflected responsibility for the decision to air the prank call, in which they impersonated Prince Charles and the Queen and extracted medical information about the Duchess of Cambridge from a nurse after Ms Saldanha put the call through, to unnamed powers above them.

''Our role is just to record and get the audio and wait to be told whether it's OK or not OK,'' Christian said.

Austereo has refused to identify who was responsible for putting the radio prank to air. However, a press release to media on December 7 promoting the prank revealed the names of producers Emily Mills and Ben Harlum, who were credited with playing the role of the corgis in the prank.

Austereo confirmed that the Hot 30 show's producers, who weren't named, had ''voluntarily been suspended indefinitely'', along with Christian and Greig.

Austereo announced on Monday that the Hot 30 show had been cancelled.

The suspension of advertising was believed to be costing 2Day FM about A$150,000 ($NZ188,000) per day. Although the prank call was played across the network, advertising on other stations was unaffected.

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Austereo has cancelled its Christmas party in Sydney planned for Thursday night out of respect to the Saldanha family. A British MP, Keith Vaz, who met the dead nurse's family, would not answer questions about whether the family had known if Ms Saldanha was very distressed after learning that she had passed on the hoax phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge's ward.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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