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

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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