Editorial: Who really is to blame?

Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012
rhys holleran
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran

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OPINION: The death of London nurse Jacintha Saldanha is tragic.

Tragic because it didn't need to happen.

Accepting a call from someone pretending to be the Queen inquiring after her daughter-in-law's health and putting it through to a ward nurse is hardly a crime.

Yet it appears Mrs Saldanha felt sufficient embarrassment and shame to take her own life.

The radio station behind the crank call, 2Day FM in Australia, said it could not have reasonably expected such an outcome.

And that's right.

These calls are made all the time by radio stations seeking to amuse and shock and ultimately attract listeners. It's so normal it takes an extreme example to attract complaints.

Naturally enough the blame game has started in this case.

How heartless of the DJs. How irresponsible of the radio station bosses. How come none of Mrs Saldanha's workmates recognised how badly affected she was by her minor mistake.

And yes, hindsight is a marvellous thing. But radio stations do this all the time.

Why? Because people listen. So maybe we should all feel a little culpable.

Assuming we found the call itself amusing (which it was) without thinking about the personal impact on the two nurses (and few of us would have).

And not just in this case. But in what we consider to be acceptable now.

Paul Henry was pulled from the Breakfast television show because he stepped over the line once too often. The conservative TVNZ audience drew a line, and the station, while encouraging Henry's antics, was forced to abandon him.

Yet radio stations continue to push the boundaries, although many have a policy of getting the permission of their "victims" before airing the prank.

Jacintha Saldanha's death will be a wake-up call for the industry, but it is hard to imagine much changing. Not while ordinary listeners continue to think such pranks are amusing and worth listening to.

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- The Timaru Herald

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