IT may have begun as a harmless prank, but when British nurse Jacintha Saldinha took her own life after answering a hoax call from the 2DayFM DJs it sparked worldwide debate on such calls and the privacy and rights of those inadvertently caught up. Britain already has some of the toughest laws in the land after a number of embarrassing gaffes and MARTIN CAMPBELL one of the country’s chief architects for their laws tells European Correspondent CHARLES MIRANDA Britain’s media has some hard questions to answer but so too it’s about time Australia gets its house in order.

Quite the cocktail of ingredients for inflaming a situation…

“QUITE clearly if the radio prank did not breach broadcasting laws in Australia it should have done. It’s actually as simple as that.

It was certainly a breach of broadcast laws of the regulator Ofcom here in the UK simply because for all prank calls these days you do need the permission of those people involved if there is no public interest defence and there is no public defence on this one. So I would have thought that it should be in breach of laws. They didn’t look at what they were doing.

I know it sounds very spoil sport but I helped write the code in the UK that actually demanded written permission is required from people if it is to result in some distress or public ridicule. This clearly falls under that bracket. That needs to be prevented, and if the Australian laws don’t prevent this they need to be changed fairly quickly.

The radio even in this multi-media age is actually a very forceful medium because you know people are very loyal to radio, people believe in radio, radio is a very strong medium and if you allow people to use the microphone as a weapon then radio as a medium is finished because that is not what radio is.

People need to trust radio. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun but the fact of the matter is they never would have got permission to broadcast this, quite clearly they wouldn’t. I don’t care what anyone says, they would not have been given permission to broadcast this and therefore it shouldn’t have been broadcast.

It doesn’t matter how funny they thought it would have been, if they didn’t get permission it shouldn’t have been broadcast and that’s that.

OVERHYPED

I’m quite convinced without that overhyping there wouldn’t have been a problem. You’ve got Prince Charles wandering around joking about the prank before news (of the death) broke because that was the only way they could have dealt with it. It’s happened then it’s gone, just leave it. It’s a couple of idiots having a laugh. That was clearly Prince Charles’ view.

What happened in the UK was it got played over and over again and a lot of people (UK media) are now being pious having a go at 2Day FM but it was on their websites for days.

And they knew quite clearly there was no permission to broadcast it but they were happy to put it on the web and that is I think a very dangerous area that the mainstream media in the UK is entering into. Pushing people to the internet to see things they that wouldn’t be able to print or broadcast themselves, without taking responsibility for it. That is a real problem.

Everyone knows what the story was but each newspaper wants to make it a bigger story and a nastier story and so a lot of the tabloids here were trying to make out that personal and confidential information about the Duchess of Cambridge was spilling out everywhere as a result of this prank and clearly it wasn’t.

The hospital said it wasn’t.

That would make the people involved think: ‘what? not only have I been made a fool off, I eventually breached all the security of the royal family’. And that seems to not be true as far as the hospital is concerned.

So when you play fast and loose with the facts like this and just pushing it through the internet without taking responsibility for the content is certainly something that needs to be looked at.

And of course the Leveson inquiry (into ethics and culture of newspapers) hardly touched on the Internet at all and I think it shows political naivety in the UK about newspapers and the role of newspapers these days and the power of newspapers.

The Daily Mirror for example doesn’t make or break a government. It might sway a few people’s views but not the 1960s and ‘70s power that it used to be. The newspaper now had a different role. Its not just about news, it’s about comment, it’s about giving people what they want to see and hear so in a way I think this prank call encapsulates an awful lot of what’s happening to the media.”

- as told to Charles Miranda in London

Comments on this post will close at 6pm AEDT.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:37am | 02/01/13

      Surely there needs to be only one performance based law which should apply to the media and everybody else ? It could be about recognising our duty of care which is to manage risk appropriately in all scenarios. This latest debacle has a touch of gross negligence about it.

    • PJ says:

      05:58am | 02/01/13

      There is no such thing as a harmless prank when we are talking about the Emergency Services.

      People that call Emergency Services for pranks, or abuse Emergency protocols for jokes, should feel the full force of the law. No matter who they are.

      We cannot afford to lose trust, when it comes to Emergency Services and their protocols.

    • Meph says:

      09:44am | 02/01/13

      @PJ

      Sorry old bean, and not that I disagree with the spirit of your post, but can you please explain to me how a receptionist at a hospital equates to “emergency services”?

      I don’t know about you, but my scope of emergency services are police, fire and ambulance/paramedic. I’ll even grant latitude to cover the triple zero call center as their defacto mouthpiece.

      By all means be outraged, but for the right reasons please.

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:45am | 02/01/13

      Have to second Meph.

      Pranking 000 = wasting emergency services’ time.

      Pranking a private hospital receptionist does not get even close to that.

    • Ravi says:

      12:06pm | 02/01/13

      @Meph & Matchofbris

      You are both correct. Although, hospitals are infinitely more important than commercial radio stations. The latter are light, fluffy entertainment, the former serious community service. So, I think is a fair expectation that people in general should respect hospitals and what they do and think twice before screwing around with them. That is hindsight, of course, but still ...

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      01:20pm | 02/01/13

      They didn’t prank a receptionist they pranked a nurse. Somebody who probably had better things to do than answer the phone call.

    • Meph says:

      03:16pm | 02/01/13

      @Austin 3:16

      “Somebody who probably had better things to do”

      Then why did they answer the phone in the first place? Better yet, have you actually read any of the news articles in relation to this story? The woman who committed suicide is described as the switchboard operator who took the initial call, and then transferred it to the duty ward nurse. If that was the function she was performing on that day, I think it’s safe to say that she didn’t have “better things to do” as you put it. Answering the phone was what she was supposed to be doing.

    • Carrie says:

      06:07am | 02/01/13

      Why has this turned into an exercise of one country’s media having a whine at how another country’s media handled this appalling situation. It has nothing to do with fleet street. What those two did was wrong. Ethically, morally, objectively wrong. Don’t try to change this into bitchy snarkiness between you and the UK press. No one outside the press industry cares about your little fights. Focus on the story, the real story, instead of creating a sideshow. If you can’t do that, how about saying nothing.

    • AdamC says:

      08:39am | 02/01/13

      The 2DayFM prank was poorly conceived from the start, but got way out of hand. Clearly, the silly DJs expected to be summarily hung up on with their ludicrous, affected accents. However, hopefully, this affair will lead to some cultural changes in Australian FM radio and the tightening up of codes of conduct. The prank call should never have been put to air without the consent of the nurses and their employer.

      A similar thing could be said about the culture of the British press and the hacking scandal, which seems to have led to some changes in approach. (Though I am concerned those changes go far too far in controlling the news media.)

      Lastly, I do not really buy that radio is this big, important medium. Radio is what people listen to when they are doing something else, like driving or cleaning the house.

    • Hartz says:

      09:08am | 02/01/13

      Oh what a shock - one of life’s little truisms has been confirmed… The media is a shallow sludgy pool more than happy to risk people’s feelings for a cheap laugh and/or a ratings bump..!! Why has the news turned into an entertainment piece where there is a 1 min piece on Syria and then a 2 min piece on Kim Kardasians (Sp?) opinion on some clap trap?  Because the news centres and the media in general is run by spineless figureheads who sacrifice their journalistic integrity in order to satisfy their need for constant economic growth (ie: ratings)... The media is turning society into brain dead followers whose apathy is only surpassed by the hypocrisy when there is an outcry over a single instance of media misbehaviour. Stop whining unless you are willing to confront the pathetic state of affairs across the board… This case is an unfortunate example of what can go wrong, and it is only getting air time because one group of the media thinks it can get a little advantage over the other… pathetic..!!!

    • Chris L says:

      11:26am | 02/01/13

      Sadly the media is not turning their audience into “brain dead followers”. They are simply catering to what those brain dead followers want to hear. If we want to improve the media we must first improve ourselves.

      I would suggest switching the radio to something like ABC Classic FM (106.1 in Brisbane), though I’m others could suggest better alternatives.

    • Gerry W says:

      09:22am | 02/01/13

      Belittling people is just plain bullying and making people feel small and worthless like they did to this poor woman.

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:53am | 02/01/13

      This whole saga has been the result of the British media and their hypocritical BS. They saw a chance to pretend to have morals, and they got to act outraged, all the while still pushing the story themselves. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say the British media was as responsible for aftermath of the prank as 2DayFM. They were criticising the hospital and its staff for being incompetent, up until the poor nurse killed herself. Then political correctness/guilt stepped in and they changed their tack overnight.

    • Woff says:

      12:17pm | 02/01/13

      Well said, I couldn’t agree more.

      The British press is probably just sorry they hadn’t thought the prank up in the first place. Trying to pass themselves off as having morals - who are they trying to kid?

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      01:25pm | 02/01/13

      —- This whole saga has been the result of the British media and their hypocritical BS—-

      Really? It had nothing to do with a foolish prank by some Aussie DJ’s?

      —- The British press is probably just sorry they hadn’t thought the prank up in the first place—-

      Oh yeah they are probably kicking themsleves that they didn’t come up with an illegal prank, resulting in the death of a nurse, before the Aussie’s did.

      Defending the indefensible demeans us all.

    • Bho Ghan-Pryde says:

      01:07pm | 02/01/13

      Well, I told you so when this happened - the nurse had a history of problems and previous suicide attempts and the British press ran this thing because the prankers are Australian. As for “People need to trust radio” - Why? Who actually listens to radio and cares what they hear? Maybe 1% of the population and an aging, shrinking 1% at that.

    • Bluebell Possum says:

      01:18pm | 02/01/13

      OK, so the prank was a bit silly.  But clearly no one in their right mind would have thought that the DJ’s, with their terrible, hilarious accents, were the real deal. Somehow - goodness knows how -  they got through. Prince Charles joked about it. No one was hurt. I feel for the nurse’s family but she clearly had a history of depression and previous suicide attempts prior to committing suicide this time round. The radio DJ’s have already gone through enough turmoil and the whole issue needs to be laid to rest by the media and the public. Leave the DJ’s alone, and let the nurse’s family grieve in peace.

    • Redd Neck says:

      01:55pm | 02/01/13

      ‘People should trust radio ‘!!  What—trust OAFS like Jones in Sydney—ho ho ?

    • PW says:

      02:25pm | 02/01/13

      You know what’s interesting about this- this issue had 500+ comments on multiple threads a few weeks ago and now has 18 as I type. Talk about flogging a dead horse.

      My prediction is that the unfortunate blonde bombshell drowning in a swimming pool at Kuta Beach on NYE will be the white hot topic of the coming week.

      On this article’s topic, of course the Pommy Press are peddling a breathtaking brand of hypocrisy. You wouldn’t for a minute expect anything less.

    • Ray says:

      03:47pm | 02/01/13

      Our ‘holier than thou’ ABC is just as hypocritical, as it has persistently been blasting the FM station concerned   for the tragic happenings.

      The 2DayFM DJs’  prank was typical of the pranks that the ABC Chasers team used to get up to.

    • stephen says:

      04:59pm | 02/01/13

      And the crack Scotland Yard are right on to it, too.
      There’s a team of them, right as we speak, trowlling through the archives of the British Library, just to see if the horrible couple of DJs’ have said anything else that has causes death or injury.
      Never mind that for 20 years the BBC had looked the other way whilst a paedophile got his way - and probably a network of them had, too - and every member of the Royal Family had shaken his hand, the PM of the day had written a letter of congratulations, the public had said their tearful goodbuys at his funeral, and the trumpets did a fanfare at the coffin’s parade.

      The Brits made bloody fools of themselves ; maybe, just maybe, they can take it out on us, and knash their teeth at a self-abnegation revenge.

 

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