Radio station already on probation after serious breaches of regulator’s code

Radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, from Sydney’s 2Day FM station, rang the King Edward VII hospital here in the early hours of Tuesday after the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted there with acute morning sickness.

Ms. Greig pretended to be the Queen, while Mr. Christian was in the background as “Prince Charles.”

Ms. Greig asked to speak to “my granddaughter Kate.” Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who was later found dead in a suspected suicide, thought she was speaking to the Queen and told Ms. Greig: “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am.” She then put the call through to a duty nurse, who divulged intimate medical details about the Duchess.

The radio station is reportedly already serving two five-year licence probations after serious breaches of the regulator’s code.

The Twitter accounts of Ms. Greig and Mr. Christian have been taken down since the news of Ms. Saldanha’s death broke.

Earlier they had replayed extended clips of the prank call. Twitter users have called for the pair to lose their jobs, they have been subjected to abuse and Greig has received what appear to be threats on the social networking site.

The prank call was deeply embarrassing for the hospital, which is the medical institution of choice for the royal family.

John Lofthouse, the hospital’s chief executive, said on Tuesday they were considering whether to take action against the radio station.

He added: “I’ve received advice that what the Australian broadcasters did may well have broken the law. On the other hand, they’ve apologised for it so we’re going to have a long and careful think about what, if anything, we do.” The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.

In their initial apology the two presenters said: “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.

“We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues and we’re glad to hear that Kate is doing well.”

The royal couple had made no comment about the hoax call. But Prince Charles appeared to make light of it, joking with journalists at an engagement on Thursday: “How do you know I am not a radio station?”

Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is tragic news, and the thoughts of all at the Royal College of Nursing go to the family of Jacintha Saldanha.

“It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

More In: International | News