I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms about the hoax call made from your radio station, 2Day FM, to this hospital last Tuesday.
The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.
The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words. I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated.
2DayFM hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian have spoken publicly for the first time since the royal radio prank and the death of 46-year-old nurse Jascintha Saldahna.
The pair sat down with Channel 9’s A Current Affair and Channel 7’s Today Tonight. Both interviews were aired tonight at 6:30pm.
Talking to Tracey Grimshaw (in an interview that has been confirmed as UNpaid), Mel Greig described the moment she received the call about Jacintha Saldahna’s death. Holding back tears Mel said: “It was the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life.”
“It was early Saturday morning,” Michael said. “There were a group of people and they all told us about it and they were there for us.”
“Shattered, gutted and heartbroken,” was how Michael described the emotions he’s going through.
Mel and Michael have been in the care of radio staffers for the past few days, as they are reportedly extremely shaken.
“I’m still trying to make sense of it all,” Michael said. “We’re still trying to work our way through it all.”
Michael described the initial prank as “just a simple phone call.” An idea the two hosts came up with in a meeting earlier tat day. He said they never expected to actually be put through to Middleton’s ward – they expected to be hung up on.
“I don’t think anyone could have expected or foreseen what would happen… We just assumed we’d be cut off,” Michael said.
“I don’t think anyone would have thought it would have had this tragic outcome…It was just something that was fun and light hearted.”
Mel Greig said “prank calls had been done for years… they were routine for us… The entertainment value was supposed to be in us. It was supposed to be in our silly accents,” she said. “It wasn’t meant to go that far. I didn’t expect them to put us through.”
On what considerations were given to airing the recorded call prior to it being broadcast, Michael Christian said the call went through “the same filters that everything goes through…. Our role is just to record,” he said.
Of Ms Saldahna’s family, Mel said “There’s not a minute that goes by that we don’t think of that family and what they’re going through… I’ve thought about this a million times in my head, that I’ve wanted to just reach out to them and give them a big hug and say sorry. I hope they’re ok, I really do,”
And Michael: “I just hope they get the love and the support and the care that they need… We’re so upset and heartbroken and sorry for the situation.”
In a media statement, the radio network said:
Following the events of the last week, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) today reiterates its deep regret for what has taken place. The Company, board and team at SCA take the events of the last few days very seriously.
According to this media statement, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) have also taken actions since the event. Suspending all advertising, terminating the radio show and a company wide suspension of prank calls.
Mamamia has been following this tragic story as it has developed over the past few days.
We previously reported that:
It all started last week when The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was admitted to London’s King Edward VII Hospital with Hyperemesis Gravidarum – an acute case of morning sickness. When news of the princess’ long-awaited pregnancy spread, the world media pounced. Camera crews and journalists camped outside the hospital vying for exclusive stories and pictures of Prince William to run on the front pages of their rags.
In Australia, two summer radio hosts – Mel Greig and Michael Christian from 2DayFM- chose a different approach. They called the hospital, posing as members of the royal family, and asked to be put through to Kate Middleton’s private ward.
Unbelievably, it worked. The nurse who took the initial call – unaware that it was a prank – transferred the call through to the princess’ ward. A second nurse picked up the phone in the ward and gave Mel and Michael (who were putting on Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles impersonations) a detailed run-down of the princess’ condition.
On Thursday of last week, the hoax went viral.
Two days later, a 46-year-old wife and mother of two was dead.
Jacintha Saldanha, the woman who took the radio hosts’ initial call and transferred it through to Kate Middleton’s ward, took her own life at the nurses’ quarters where she lived during the week.
Ms Saldanha’s 14-year-old daughter has started a Facebook page dedicated to her late mother, she posted on the weekend ‘I miss you, I loveeeeee you’. Ms Saldanha’s husband wrote on his own Facebook wall “I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances. She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India.”
The BBC reported that Mrs Saldanha answered the phone call from 2DayFM at 5:30am earlier in the week because there was no receptionist on duty. She was not trained to do that work, she was simply trying to be helpful. And suddenly everyone everywhere was pointing fingers and wondering who to blame.
After the radio station’s board meeting last night, Chairman Max Moore-Wilton released a letter to Lord Glenarthur (who is the chairman of the King Edward VII Hospital). In the letter he noted the company that owns the radio show, would be taking “immediate action”.
The radio show was suspended from air over the weekend and it has been reported that the two local hosts are extremely shaken by the events. The radio network suspended all of their advertising on 2Day FM indefinitely, after advertisers (including Telstra and Coles) began pulling their funding. The hosts have deleted their Twitter accounts. Their physical and emotional health is being monitored.
Mamamia’s Bec Sparrow wrote yesterday about the dangers of finger pointing following the week’s tragic events (you can read her powerful post here). Her sentiments were echoed by UK journalist Ian Dunt from politics.co.uk who has warned the community from blaming the two young hosts, who could never foreseen the devastating consequences of their prank. Dunt writes:
Let’s be clear. Those attacking the Australian radio DJs who made the prank call to the hospital Kate Middleton was staying in are guilty of the very crime they are protesting against.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said ‘this is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with (Ms Saldanha’s) family and friends at this time.’
The Australian Communications and Media Authority are investigating the matter.
Contrary to some speculative reports, the two young hosts at the centre of this tragedy have not ‘sold’ their story. They are expected to give a media conference or make further statements today. We will bring you those when they happen.