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 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.
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Something struck me last night as I watched the 7.30 report on the 2DayFM prank scandal. After three days of the story I was only half paying attention until radio veteran Mike Carlton piped up about how the Austereo management had let down “these kids” who were now at the centre of a firestorm.
He was expressing the view of many people on this topic, but I had to go back and check. Michael Christian probably does qualify as a “kid” in media circles. He’s 25. But the other half of the Hot 30 team that is now in hot water, Mel Grieg, is 30, and until recently taught at the Australian Radio School in Adelaide.
According to the ARS website: “We’ll teach you everything from classic communication techniques, producing great shows, copywriting, voiceovers, commercial production, promotions, all the way through to using new media like podcasting and internet radio to score your first gig.”
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This evening, the radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian sat down with the TV networks to tell their side of the story about the suicide death of a nurse who had transferred their prank call on.
Talking to A Current Affair, they talked about their pain. They pleaded ignorance of the process 2Day FM follows approving prank calls. And they told of other phone calls. The calls that told them Jacintha Suldanha had died. “It was the worst phone call of my life,” a sobbing Grieg said. Read all about it at News.com.au.
On the weekend, Irish crooner Brian McFadden tweeted: “Men who hit women are pathetic. Women who make excuses and stay with the guy are just as bad.”
In case that needs clarification, what he is saying is that a victim of domestic violence is as bad as a perpetrator of domestic violence. She is just as bad as the man hitting her.
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It was only a matter of time before geeks clad in Guy Fawkes masks started some sort of vigilante action against 2Day FM DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
And… enter Anonyomous.
They’re like serial hackers Anonymous with an extra dose of self importance. So that’s a lot of self importance.
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We already have enough laws, right down to inconsequential matters such as the colour of cigarette packets and what we’re allowed to wear on our heads when we ride bicycles. Beyond laws, we have conventions and standards that further guide behaviour. Barely any element of our lives escapes regulation.
Yet the inevitable response when something goes wrong is to demand still more regulation, even in cases where regulation already exists.
The UK, for example, is currently trying to stay awake during endless analysis of the Leveson inquiry into the media – an inquiry that ended up recommending new media rules on top of rules currently in place. As Private Eye editor Ian Hislop wondered: “Why can’t we just enforce the laws? The ones we already have against phone hacking, harassment, libel, bribery etc etc.”
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What a tragic and shocking development in a story that until now had been the butt of even Prince Charles’s jokes.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the King Edward VII Hospital nurse who was the first to fall for 2DayFM’s prank Queen call the other day is dead. She’s a wife and a mother and her family, friends and colleagues must be utterly beside themselves.
We don’t know why she’s dead but right now a lot of people are putting the blame at the feet of Sydney DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. The pair has taken themselves off air and shut down their Twitter accounts but that will not be enough to quell the growing bi-hemisphere storm of outrage being directed their way.
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There was only so much the Australian Communications and Media Authority could do to sanction 2DayFM over Kyle Sandilands’s sledge against news.com.au journalist Alison Stephenson.
But I’m most interested in what Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran had to say in response to ACMA this morning. Essentially Sandilands’s boss reckons it’s “unworkable” for 2DayFM to comply with ACMA’s ruling it refrain from broadcasting material that “offends generally-accepted standards of decency, demeans or is likely to demean women or girls, places undue emphasis on gender, uses overt sexual references in relation to a woman’s physical characteristics, and/or condones or incites violence against women.”
Holleran said: “Our difficulty with the proposed licence condition is that terms such as ‘decency, ‘demeaning’ and ‘undue emphasis on gender’ are broad and ambiguous and mean different things to different people.”
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