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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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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The Chaser was responsible for some fine political mischief.
Most notoriously, its prankster cast exposed the absurdity of overly conspicuous (yet underly effective) security when their fake motorcade breached the restricted zone in the heart of fortress Sydney during the 2007 APEC summit.
One of the show’s cast, Craig Reucassel, is now hosting an Australian remake of the UK stunt show Balls of Steel. Screening on the Comedy Channel, it features a series of characters who compete to out-prank unwitting members of the public.
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