Death call DJs break silence, saying decision to broadcast call was not theirs; show cancelled

Mel Greig on A Current Affair: not our call to broadcast the prank
Above and below: Michael Christian
Jacintha Saldanha

UPDATE: 9.30pm: The DJs at the centre of the royal prank call suicide scandal have broken their silence, appearing in two TV interviews.

This evening has also seen Southern Cross Austereo (owner of 2Day FM) cancel their show, and issue a stationwide ban on all pranks calls.

Presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian have been suspended indefinitely, the company said in a statement.

"SCA and the hosts of the radio program have also decided that they will not return to the airwaves until further notice."

On Channel Nine's A Current Affair, the DJs defended their role in the scandal.

"We don't get to make those decisions. Our job is to record and get the audio ... and act upon as we're told," Ms Greig said.

In terms of broadcasting the audio, "It's not up to us to make that decision, Mr Christian said. "It goes to other departments to make the call."

In its statement, SCA confirmed the recording had been given internal legal approval.

The idea for the prank had come from "Just the team sitting down before the show - [we] just had the idea for just a simple harmless phone call," Mr Christian said.

The pair said they were heartbroken, and gutted.

Ms Greig was tearful throughout; Mr Christian more clear-eyed and formal. The interview was unpaid.

Not their decision, but focus on them
Earlier, A Current Affiar host Tracy Grimshaw told media the pair were "pretty shattered people."

Ms Grimshaw, like a number of Australian politicians, said she felt a degree of sympathy for the pair.

"They’re at a certain point on the food chain," she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"There are other people who made the decision to put it to air, it wasn’t live to air, there was a decision made after that prank call was recorded to put it to air," yet virtually all the focus had been on the DJs.

Possible prosecution
But while some in the media industry have given the DJs a sympathetic hearing, the pair still face criminal charges for breaking a law that prevent recording a conversation without a person's consent.

Sydney University law professor Barbara McDonald said authorities would have to look very carefully at a possible breach of the Surveillance Devices Act. The situation is coloured by the fact that the prank call was made to the UK.

2Day FM parent company Southern Cross Austereo also faces a possible fast-track investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) into a possible breach of the Radio Code of Practice which says a radio licensee must not broadcast the voice of an identifiable person unless that person has been informed in advance.

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran told talk radio station 3AW that 2Day FM staff tried to contact hospital staff on at least five occassions before the pre-recorded prank call was broadcast. Asked if staff had called for approval to broadcast, Mr Holleran said "We rang them up to discuss what we recorded."

He said his company did nothing illegal.


2Day FM DJs get high-profile backing after 'harmless prank' 

EARLIER / Dec 10: The DJs responsible for the royal prank call want to speak publicly, a spokeswoman for Southern Cross Austereo, parent company of 2Day FM says. "[But] we haven't ascertained when they're ready for that and how we're going to organise that."

For now, Mel Greig and Michael Christian are in hiding. Their Twitter accounts have been deleted.

The pair are said to be fragile - a development that has has sent UK tabloids into a frenzy. "Australian radio station boss refuses to sack Royal prank DJs and claims THEY are the victims" offered The Daily Mail in a typical headline.

Radio network replies to hospital
After an emergency board meeting Sunday afternoon, Southern Cross Austereo promised to "fully cooperative with all investigations" carried out by King Edward VII Hospital, which wrote to the company over the weekend, demanding it take steps to avoid a similar incident happening again.

In a letter of reply (read full text here), chairman Max Moore-Wilton said his company will be ''taking immediate action and reviewing the broadcast and processes involved."

But Mr Moore-Wilton was short on specifics.

''It is too early to know the full details leading to this tragic event and we are anxious to review the results of an investigation that may be made available to us or made public," he wrote.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard issued a brief statement of condolence to the family of nurse Jacintha Saldanha (46), who put through the hoax call, and is believed to have take taken her life.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it was up to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to determine whether 2Day FM had breached the commercial radio code of practice.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman issued a statement saying the authority wouldn’t make any comments at this stage but would be "engaging" with the station over the facts and issues over the call. The situation is coloured by the fact the call was pre-recorded, then vetted by Southern Cross Austero lawyers and managers before being broadcast, plus the fact the call was made offshore.

Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson was more direct.

"We shouldn't be engaged in activity which could have the affect of embarrassing and humiliating people because that can put them under extreme pressure," he told Channel Nine.

Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas told media the London Metropolitan Police had been in contact, but had not asked for any action at this stage.


Dec 9: The chairman of London's King Edward VII hospital, Lord Glenarthur, has sent a sharply-worded letter to 2Day FM, the Australian radio station behind a prank call that led to a nurse's suicide.

The letter says two staff were "humiliated" by a hoax call from DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian - which it notes was pre-recorded and approved by managers. 

The 2Day FM presenters called the hospital posing as the Queen and Prince Charles. Nurse Jacintha Saldanha (46) put the call through to the ward were the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. A second nurse gave the pair details of Kate Middleton's condition. Ms Saldanha was subsequently found dead. Police say there were no suspicious circumstances - code for someone taking their own life.

In the letter, released Saturday night, Lord Glenaurthur calls on the station to " take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated."

He describes the call as "extremely foolish" and the station's decision to broadcast the pre-recorded audio as "truly appalling."

On 2Day FM's Facebook page, an avalanche of 15,000+ comments has been mixed. Some slam the pair, but others said anger should be directed at the hospital's poor security. 
 
The station's staff are reportedly babysitting Ms Greig and Mr Christian and trying to shield them from media coverage - fearing they may in turn do themselves harm. 

2Day FM has temporarily taken the pair off air. They are described as "fragile."

And yesterday Southern Cross Austereo, the company that owns 2Day FM, suspended all advertising on the station.

Two high-profile politicians have sympathy for DJs
The move came after supermarket chain Coles pulled its ads.

Not everyone joined in the backlash, however.

Ms Greig and Mr Christian received high-profile backing from ex-Victorian Premiere Jeff Kennett, now chairman of depression awareness organisation beyondblue.

"When they did this they had no intention to cause harm, it was a harmless prank,” Mr Kennett told ABC radio.

"Now they will be under extraordinary pressure and I just hope that they get our support and that their employer provides them with the professional support to help them get through what will be a terrible few weeks."

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell also had sympathy for the pair, whom he told reporters must be feeling "terrible".

"I don't imagine in any way that those who were engaged in the typical FM radio stunt would have thought it would lead to this,” Mr O'Farrell said.

"I think there are some people today who are suffering, not just the family of the nurse but those who in some way were involved with what appears to be the trigger for this tragedy."

'Nasty little lie'
New Zealand commentator David Farrar wasn't buying that argument.

"I think there is a place for prank calls, but I don’t regard what that radio station did as a prank call. It was a nasty little lie," Mr Farrar wrote.

"However it was predictable that that nature of the call and the hoax they were enacting was going to cause great distress to the hospital staff they conned.

"Now two children do not have a mother, and Kate and William’s first child will always be associated with the death of an innocent."

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104 Comments & Questions

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Why shouldn't those two be charged with 2nd degree murder?? They CAUSED the Nurses death!

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No they didnt..

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NO they did not - it's very unfortunate that the nurse took her own life, but in modern day radio pranks like this happen for the amusement of their listeners (and advertising money). it's the hospital to blame for the security breach and no one else.

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Rubbish. It was a simple prank.

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Any prank, simple or otherwise should not humiliate any lame hardworking and sincere victim to death....simple joker, eh?

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Is Bart Simpson going to be held responsible if Moe commits suicide?

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It was not a prank. Were it a prank then permission would have been sought from the person being "pranked" prior to call. This was simply a misguided attempt to increase ratings by ruining somebody's career.

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Grow a brain. It is not much of a prank if you ask for permission first!

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Except that it's not ratings period. It's summer programming so your argument is flawed.

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I agree. Although I think this all started with an unnecessary hospital visit by a Royal....who else gets preferential treatment for Morning Sickness??! However the actions of the Radio DJs directly led to this poor woman committing suicide. A woman whose work saved lived and contributed more to humanity than two hapless DJs, whose function is totally redundant in this world when it comes to matters of life or death

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Is this a comment from someone with medical qualifications who is able to diagnose via the internet that this was an "unnecessary" hospital visit?!

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It can only have been the straw that broke the camel's back, not the whole cause. Is it the straw's fault, or the rest of the load the camel was carrying that is to blame?

99.9999999% of people would not have killed themselves in the same situation - no one could have foreseen that this would happen. Yes, it is sad, but it is ridiculous to suggest that anyone making a call that actually harmed no one can be to blame for this death.

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Yes, they are taking someone's family forever.

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She made a mistake at work (if there was a policy that she breached). Even if they were involved in the mistake, it is not the DJs' fault how she, her employer, or her colleagues deal with that mistake.

If every person who made a mistake at work killed themselves there would only be the permanently unemployed still alive.

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Jeff Kennett should take a good hard look at himself.

Whilst I agree that blaming the presenters for the death of the nurse is unfair, saying that their actions in making the prank call are acceptable is very disappointing indeed from the chairman of an organisation that purports to support vulnerable people. Planning to obtain private medical details of a pregnant, sick woman and broadcasting them is NOT acceptable to any decent person. Planning to do so by conning vulnerable people and exposing them to disciplinary action is even worse. The fact that the consequences of this action were so much worse than planned and have resulted in such a huge backlash does not excuse the original intention.

I’m very disappointed to see the chairman of such a valuable organisation making such statements.

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I agree with you in general, but I do regard the DJs as responsible for her death. Any prank call carries a risk, you do not know the circumstances of the receiver, what may be harmless for many can be devastating for some. This risk needs to balanced against the gain, in this case very little. There is no public right to know confidential patient information. As well, their later boasting about how easy it had been to fool the hospital was bound to cause humiliation and shame, in this case on a world wide scale. So the DJs are responsible for her death, there actions created a risk, without any counterbalancing justification for that risk.

Also prank calls to hospitals are always irresponsible, they tie up time of staff who are trying to care for the sick and save lives. In the worst circumstances that could harm patient care. The call maker has no idea of the circumstances at the hospital when they ring.

The idea that this sort of media stunt is harmless is simply wrong.

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Agree 100%.

While the presenters are indirectly responsible for the nurse's death, the level of abuse heaped on them by the global media (social and commercial) is over the top.

Blame them for the original stupidity, but don't accuse them of murder. After all, if a somebody plays a practical joke on or bullies or stalks or harasses another person, and death results (either suicide or accidental), the perpetrator is not charged with murder, as there was no intention to cause death. Same situation here. What they did was NOT acceptable in the same way bullying is not acceptable.

I would like to see "prank calls" outlawed in the same way bullying has been. It's the really the same thing.

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Surely it's obvious that focusing undue rage in these DJs will
Next lead to one of them harming themselves.

When that happens can we then suggest that all the anonymous angry/stupid blog posters can also be charged with 2nd degree murder?

The incident is simply unfortunate, but if you listen to FM radio this is what they do everyday and the audience continues to listen - they live listening to this nonsense - if the audience didn't want it, the station wouldn't make it. And the self righteous advertisers would advertise their.

Sadly when this nurse was the victim of a prank she was isolated(her own words) by those who should have supported her.

Stop the witch hunt before someone else get hurt.

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"if the audience didn't want it, the station wouldn't make it" - sounds exactly the same as a child porn manufacturer defending his work. That's an extreme analogy, but the sentiment is the same.

Just because a segment of the population want it doesn't make it right.

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if the audience didn't want it, the station wouldn't make it.

And 9 out of 10 participants in a gang rape enjoy it ... therefore it is OK?

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There is as yet no evidence that they caused the dealth of the nurse. The over reaction from the hospital manager was to cover his own incompetence as the security at the hospital was clearly non existent..

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I very much hope that both presenters will have a good hard look at themselves and anybody who seems to lack any kind of empathy or, at points, seems to entirely misjudge how being made fun of in front of others can be very hurtful to some people. It displays an unfortunately quite common ignorance towards the fact the people are different from one another. It's based on an arrogant view that everybody should be able to take a joke. It's supported by a culture where many will feel that something is not quite right but will go along with it just for the fun of it or because they are too unsure of their own beliefs. I'd be curious to see if this incident will have any repercussions at all. In a week, maybe less maybe more, 2day FM is going to air more stupid pranks, more people will laugh at it and nobody will question where a joke stops and where bullying starts.

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What a sad world the Media is visiting upon us. They are like a lot of Pirahnas in a tank and will, hopefully , end up eating one another. There was no "evil intent" in the actions of the reporters. They were merely doing their job in getting stuff which their readers want to know. (Can't think why!). I doubt that they thought that they would get past first base in their quest. And indeed they wouldn't have if the hospital had half decent security procedures. Now we have other sections of the media proclaiming " World in uproar over prank" . Who are they kidding ? The only uproar has been created by them. Soon it will be impossible to crack a joke or pull a stunt on family member without it being headlines in the paper the next day. Of course it is very sad that this affected the nurse in the way that it did but to blame the reporters and castigate them is well over the top. I agree with Jeff Kennett and Barry O'Farrell and think that they have more common sense than "New Zealand Commentator" David Farrar. Who? We need to have a look at where this is all going and remember what life is about.

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Pulling a stunt on a family member is totally different to obtaining private medical information by deception for commercial gain, with the totally predictable result that the employees who are conned will be in trouble. Honestly, people defending this sort action really do need to have a look at themselves. For a start, deliberately getting somebody into trouble in the workplace is not a "harmless joke".

Also, since when does "merely doing their job getting stuff their readers want to know" excuse these sorts of actions. The end result of that is that anything that the listeners (not readers) want to hear is OK, and the desires of the listeners justifies doing anything at all. Pretty much where we are at the moment in commercial radio in fact.

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"merely doing their job". - The NAZI excuses at Nuremburg was; "I was just following orders". Didn't worth there!

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I was trying not to Godwin the thread - but that analogy had occurred to me as well.

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Two idiot radio jocks. They and journos like them sound like little kids saying 'but we didnt mean to'. Perhaps they should have thought about what they were doing first, and about the consequences of what they did and what they intended to do with the information their prank solicited. So pathetic to now say you are sorry, and pathetic for people to try and defend their actions. They did it, now they face the consequences. Tough.

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Storm in a teacup.. It was a harmless prank. We dont know why she took her life or what other problems she was dealing with at the time or what was going on in her head. For all we know her reason for commiting suicide could be un-related, she is responsible for her own death. These dj's have been copping a lot worse treatement and public humiliation by the media then the nurse ever did.

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This sort of thing is not harmless. How would you like to be publicly laughed at, and have the DJs boast about how easy it had been to fool you to the whole world? That is radio and cyber bullying (it was on the station's webpage). Also, it was bound to cause repercussions for her at work. It should never have been broadcast, and the DJs and the station must accept that they probably contributed to her death. That such a broadcast could cause some harm to those being hoaxed was entirely predictable, even if her death wasn't.

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The two presenters should be charged with causing the death of the poor girl. I write from the UK and listened to the prank call on the Internet. The accents and language are laughable - WITH HINDISGHT. But just imagine a young, flustered and tired nurse, half-way through a night shift (it was very early morning over here) and it's easy to see how she must have felt to receive a 'phone call purporting to be from our Queen! When all was revealed, she must have felt excruciatingly embarassed - and one can only immagine the comments she had to contend with from her colleagues.
It was dreadful to hear that she'd taken her own life, leaving two kiddies without their Mum - especially at this time of year.

R.I.P. Jacintha.

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...but you went out of your way to go and listen to it. What does that say?

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It says that they're in the UK (and therefore didn't hear it on the radio), that they were interested enough to want to know how good or bad the accents were and so they went and found the recording on the internet to judge for themselves. (after all, it was playing on 2dayfm's website for hours after the death)

You went out of your way to make a nasty insinuation about their motives and/or character. What does that say about you?

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We have been bombarded with the news here in the UK and so, not wanting to pre-judge the issue, we listened for ourselves. Anyone over here who heard the 'phone call - and whose native tongue is English - is clearly highly unlikely to have been taken in by it - especially the 'Queen's reference to the 'bloody corgies!' But this poor girl did not have that benefit, was half-way through her night shift at the hospital and suddenly confronted with this call ostensibly from the Queen and Prince Charles. It was not as if the presenters got (or were likely to get) through to Kate herself - so consequently others were put in the firing line and therefore the potential consequences of this particular prank must have been obvious to any half-wit!

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The nurse over-reacted by committing suicide.
One does not commit suicide over a prank call - especially when the hospital supported her.
Didn't she have a husband to discuss things through and vent and reason things out?
Leaving her children without a mother because of a prank? What was she thinking?

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Clearly the 'pranksters' were happy to risk the telephone call recipient being reprimanded or even fired.

That shows how cynical and uncaring the radio station staff and supporters are.

The death merely (?) highlights the personal & moral failings of these people.

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Typical defence of a bully - blame the victim

"it was only a joke"
"the victim over-reacted"
"I didn't really mean it"

Wake up to yourself. We've outlawed workplace bullying, humiliating initiation rituals and all sorts of other things that were once considered acceptable. It's more than time that we outlawed this sort of bullying masquerading as entertainment.

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Is bullying at work illegal? Ooops...

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If she breached a hospital policy then she should have been disciplined. If they didn't, then it wasn't her fault. Either way, it is not the DJs' fault she killed herself.

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I think you should all remember where the call was directed, A hospital!

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The C.E.O. of the station says they did nothing wrong. So the management are as guilty as the two jerks who did it. To impersonate someone (deceive them) for personal gain is illegal. They all did it for more publicity, more notoriety, which is worth much more money to them all. They were gloating over their success until this happened. Now they are copping the same energy that they so cockily inflicted on that poor woman. They are now on the receiving end of world wide headlines, but not for the reason they want. It does serve them right.

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Do you people make lying calls to hospital wards where ladies are
receiving urgent medical attention from hard working medics, at 5.30 in the morning ? ?

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Mr Kennett- and some of my fellow commenters- obviously have a new meaning for the word 'harmless', of which I am unaware.
If I make an error while driving to work, and someone is killed in the ensuing accident, I'll have to front court under a charge of manslaughter, or at least dangerous driving causing death.
Why is the media different?

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Yes true, if you drive a car and do so negligently or recklessly your responsible for it as it can be deemed a dangerous thing. Just think about how ridiculous your statement is. The situation is that sound waves are not a dangerous thing, or at least this is what I make of your comparison of a car, which is a dangerous thing. If we hooked the radio up to some ultrasound, coupled it and then blasted at the nurse then it becomes a dangerous thing because it can cause perforated ear drums and deafness, which is what they do to protesters in war zones.

If you read any newspapers you realise that if she had held on for a little longer some other sensationalised story would of replaced this one with in a week or two.

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I don't know whose hands are clean here. The DJs provoked a mistake, the radio station exploited it, the hospital dealt with it and its staff and public reacted to it along with all the other media.

There is is probably plenty of blame to go around them all. And plenty of motive for all to point their fingers at someone else.

In the long run, the only cure for cruelty is kindness. It may as well start with us.

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Well said Alan and a pertinent observation I had also made. There are no winners in this sorry saga, none at all. Everybody needs to look inside themselves and see how they can make the world a better place to fix the malaise exhibited with this event.

Taking concrete pills to harden up is not going to solve anything.

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Such a pity the anonymous pushers of the dislike button do not front up with a) their names, and b) their argument.

They show only they are capable of voting but not of thinking.

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I think the managers & hosts are to blame. Why would anyone try & prank a pregnant woman when she's ill in hospital, I know they didnt get to speak to Kate but the plan was to speak to Kate herself.

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I agree the two jocks did not mean to cause harm and as they said, they never even expected to get through. But... for the prank to be played on air after the lawyers looked at it is deplorable. The poor nursing staff in all countries are becoming more and more over-worked as governments and health agencies feel the pinch. I do blame the hospital and the lack of security, for heaven's sake, they surely must have some sort of protocol or even a private line for the sort of situation they must expect if they treat royals? However, sadly we are all to blame if we have ever laughed at a prank call and the radio station is definitely to blame if it ever even remotely contemplated the fact that taking advantage of one of our most valuable resources; i,e. people who actually care about and for others, was acceptable. The poor girls in this incident were quite likely to face some sort of disciplinary action in this case, caused by a mindless prank. Now one has lost everything, her family have lost her and we try to place blame. Poor Kate has the knowledge that her pregnancy, something to be celebrated, has led to this. I hope the radio station loses enough money over this to think again and vet it's presenters better, better yet, contemplate a different style of "entertainment". Moreover, I hope the lawyers feel ashamed too.

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You can't blame the hospitals lack of security, the receptionist might have picked up on the trickery but nurses aren't trained to deal with any media on the phone whereas receptionists cover it in admin training. Another thing, Jacinda RIP, was not native to Britain therefore would have difficulty distinguishing similar accents and/or dialects. Plus how was she to know what the queen sounds like or that she would've had someone else call on her behalf.

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I agree with #8. It's not the DJ's fault - everybody saw it for the fun it was. It wasn't something that should have precipitated anyone to take their own life, so there must have been something else in that woman's life that lead to it. Put the blame fair and square where it deserves to be (she took her own life) and that is not the DJs.

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