Anger at Radio Royal Prank Increases

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 8 2012 1:40 PM

Anger at Australian Radio Royal Prank Continues To Grow After Nurse Death

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A general view of the entrance to the 2DayFm offices in Sydney, Australia

Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images

It was the prank heard around the world. And now, the backlash is truly global. Outrage at the two Australian DJs who managed to ask questions about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge continues to grow after the nurse who answered the phone apparently committed suicide. The hospital where Prince William’s pregnant wife, formerly Kate Middleton, was being treated for acute morning sickness, sent a strongly worded letter to the owners of the Australian radio station accusing the DJs of “humiliating” the staff, reports the Guardian.  The letter (available in full here) notes that the idea to make the call was “extremely foolish” but what was “truly appalling” was learning that the call had been pre-recorded and management approved its broadcast.

The letter was sent shortly after Southern Cross Austereo Chief Executive Rhys Holleran held a news conference in Melbourne saying that while the station would cooperate with authorities he was “very confident” no laws had been broke. "This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we are deeply saddened by it,” he said. Two large Australian firms have pulled all advertising from 2DayFM, reports Reuters. Although the police have not made the connection between the death of 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha and the call, people around the world immediately made the assumption, points out the Associated Press.

The Sydney-based station closed down its Facebook page after receiving thousands of angry comments. This isn’t the first time the station has been at the heart of a controversy. Earlier this year, there was also outrage at the station when a radio host convinced a 14-year-old girl to reveal on air that she had been raped, points out Reuters, noting that the issue once again brings the issue of media ethics to the spotlight. The DJs have apologized and “mutually decided” to go off the air for an undetermined period of time, Holleran said.

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The controversy has so engulfed England and Australia that a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron commented Saturday, saying that he "thinks this is a very sad case and his thoughts are with her family and colleagues,” reports CNN. A spokesman for Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard also released a statement calling it a “terrible tragedy,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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