Radio station 2Day FM has won its appeal against the communications watchdog, overturning a finding that the station broke the law during the infamous royal prank call.
During a broadcast on December 4, 2012, 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Mike Christian impersonated the Queen and Prince of Wales in a call to King Edward VII's Hospital in London to inquire about the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated for morning sickness.
They were put through to the duchess' ward by nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who took her own life after the hoax was widely publicised in the British media.
Following an investigation into the incident, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) published two reports stating that the station had breached one of its licence conditions by using a broadcast service in the commission of an offence, namely, that it breached the NSW Surveillance Devices Act.
After learning of the communication watchdog's adverse report, 2Day FM sought to have ACMA permanently restrained from finding that it breached the broadcasting licence condition that states a licensee must not use its broadcasting service in the commission of an offence.
The station argued that ACMA was acting as "policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, prison warden and parole officer" when it delivered the preliminary finding in June.
But ACMA insisted the regulator had operated within its powers and said the preliminary report issued in June was not a final ruling.
On November 7, Justice Richard Edmonds upheld ACMA's argument, dismissing 2Day FM's application and ordering it to pay the watchdog's legal costs.
However, on Friday, the full bench of the Federal Court overturned that decision setting aside ACMA's finding that 2Day FM breached its licensing condition, and ordering the watchdog to pay the station's legal costs.
The decision is a blow to ACMA's investigation of 2Day FM, and puts an end to any possibility that the station might be subjected to tough penalties such as a total broadcast ban, which had been mooted after the previous decision.
- Sydney Morning Herald