Jacintha Saldanha and her two children, taken from Facebook. Sorry … Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
The boss of the radio station facing global condemnation after the death of a British nurse targeted in a radio prank said staff from the station tried at least five times to contact those involved in the call.
The station, 2Day FM, and broadcasters Michael Christian and Mel Greig, are under fire after nurse Jacintha Saldanha died in an apparent suicide after the call gained worldwide notoriety.
The pair had claimed to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, and asked after the condition of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was in the King Edward VII hospital suffering from an acute form of morning sickness.
Mrs Saldanha answered Greig’s questions, referring to her as ‘‘ma’am’’.
Rhys Holleran, chief executive of 2Day FM’s parent company Austereo, reiterated on Monday that what had occurred was “a deeply tragic, unforseen circumstance” but that he was satisfied that the appropriate checks were conducted before the pre-recorded segment was broadcast.
“It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions. We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded. We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions. We did want to speak to them about it,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
Later, he said: “The day prior [to Mrs Saldahna’s death], people took it as a harmless prank in good humour.”
Greig and Christian’s program has been suspended and advertising on the station has been suspended until Wednesday. The station has not yet said when, or if, the presenters will return to the airwaves.
All Austereo staff were called to a meeting on Monday at 9am; employees have been gagged from speaking publicly.
Mr Holleran’s comments come as online vigilante group Anonymous is believed to have threatened the broadcaster in light of Mrs Saldanha’s death.
Using a new account on YouTube with the group’s branding, a person wearing a mask similar to that used by Anonymous members said 2Day FM was “directly responsible” for Mrs Saldanha’s death.
The video, uploaded from an account named An-onym Oz, purports to be from Anonymous but contains a spelling error in its opening titles. ‘‘Hello citizens of the world, we are Anonyomous,’’ it reads.
“We have listened to your excuses. We have heard the word ’prank’ a million times,” the person in the video says, in a digitally altered voice.
“We have studied the facts and found you guilty of murder. You have placed yourself in an untenable position. You have placed your advertisers at risk – their databases, their websites, their online advertising.
“We are Anonymous and hereby demand you terminate the contracts of Mel Greig and Michael Christian. We will not listen to any more excuses. We will not let you escape your responsibility. You have a funeral to pay for. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We are amongst you. Expect us. This is not a prank call; this is no laughing matter. This is your one and only chance to make amends. You have one week to do so.”
In Australia, New South Wales police are now helping Scotland Yard with its investigation into Mrs Saldanha’s death.
Mr Holleran said on Monday that he had not spoken to police “at this point in time”.
He said he did not believe any Australian Communications and Media Authority codes governing radio broadcasts had been breached or that the station’s licence was in jeopardy.
He said the company was happy to discuss the issue with any investigators.
“I’m sure that in the time ahead, there will be questions, and we’re happy to participate in that process, of course we are,” Mr Holleran said.
“We have said we won’t be running that style of call until we do [investigate] … this isn’t a witch-hunt and I don’t intend for it to be that way.
“If it’s appropriate to make changes, we will make changes, make no mistake about that.”
He would not comment on how much the fallout was costing the station financially and rejected suggestions of cultural problems at the station in light of repeated scandals, largely ignited by host Kyle Sandilands.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.