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So who signed off the hoax call that ended in tragedy Australian radio
station refuses to identify executive who approved broadcast
DJs face international outcry after suicide of nurse who put call throughBut they refuse to specify which lawyers and producers approved hoaxShow's producer in hiding as all company staff banned from speaking out



18:39 GMT, 10 December 2012

In the wake of the hoax call to the Duchess of Cambridge's hospital which drove a nurse to suicide, the Australian DJs responsible for the prank have come under huge pressure for their role in the tragic incident.

However, while it was Mel Greig and Michael Christian who actually made the fateful phone call, it is unclear who was responsible for signing off on the cruel hoax.

The two DJs, as well as the chief executive of the radio station's parent company, have repeatedly claimed that correct legal procedures were followed, but refused to specify which executives or lawyers approved the call.

Saddened: 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian (left) and Mel Greig (right) leave a TV studio after giving an interview in Sydney today

Saddened: 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian (left) and Mel Greig (right) leave a TV studio after giving an interview in Sydney today

Emotional: The pair broke down during an interview with Tracy Grimshaw

Emotional: The pair broke down during an interview with Tracy Grimshaw

Greig and Christian – known as 'Mel and MC' – phoned up the King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes in London on Tuesday morning pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles and asking after the health of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was being treated there for hyperemesis gravidarum.

The call was broadcast on their show Hot30 Countdown, on 2Day FM, a few hours later – apparently after being approved by lawyers and producers.

On Friday, the nurse who put the call through to the ward apparently committed suicide, leading to an international outcry over the radio stunt.

But in a series of interviews over the past few days, Greig, Christian and Rhys Holleran, chief executive of the firm that owns 2Day, have refused to give any details of the procedure for approving the prank call, which some have suggested could have broken Australian law.

And during a crisis meeting on Monday, all employees of the company were instructed not to speak publicly about the scandal.

Jacintha Saldanha

Jacintha Saldanha

Tragic: Floral tributes were left for Jacintha Saldanha, left, after she apparently killed herself

Boss: Chief executive Rhys Holleran did not say who was responsible for approving the prank

Boss: Chief executive Rhys Holleran did not say who was responsible for approving the prank

In a televised interview with Clare Brady, the DJs were asked, 'Did you have legal advice or senior producers nursing you through this' – but did not answer the question.

They were also asked if they had 'sat down in a legal class' for training on how far their prank calls were allowed to go, and Christian replied: 'There are people that make those decisions for us.'

When Brady asked if they had considered identifying themselves to the nurse who took the call and passed on Kate's intimate medical details, Greig said: 'We just record everything and pass it to the team. That's what we do.'

In another interview with Tracy Grimshaw, the DJs again attempted to pass the buck as they referred to 'other departments' responsible for approving the material they broadcast.

'There's a process in place for those calls or anything that makes it to air,' Christian said. 'And you know, that's out of our hands, this was put through the filter that everything was put through before it makes it to air.'

Grimshaw asked: 'Is it your sense as presenters the buck stops way beyond you Is that your view'
Greig hesitated for five seconds before answering, 'I don't think anyone could have foreseen where this would go.'

Michael Christian and Mel Greig

Teary: Christian and Greig denied responsibility for the legal ramifications of the prank call

Glamorous: The pair boasted about the hoax in the days after carrying it out, but have since apologised

Glamorous: The pair boasted about the hoax in the days after carrying it out, but have since apologised

When the interviewer tried to press the pair on who exactly had been privy to the prank before it was broadcast, they repeatedly refused to specify any individuals or departments responsible.

'Who do you hand it on to', Grimshaw said. 'A lot of people want to know what the process is.'

Greig replied, 'I don't know the process. I honestly don't know the process.'

'Presumably it goes to your producer', the interviewer continued.

Greig said, 'There's a whole team of people that work with us,' with Christian adding: 'And far above.'

'We just go on and record other stuff,' Greig said. 'Other prep, we do that and leave it for everybody else to deal with.'

'So there's a producer, there's a team, do you mean lawyers Management'

Christian replied: 'Far above us, and you know I'm 100 per cent honestly saying we're not privy to what happens with this call.'

Holleran, chief executive of media conglomerate Southern Cross Austereo, was similarly evasive as he refused to tell an interviewer whether or not the nurses involved had been warned that the prank would be broadcast.

He said 2Day had tried to contact the hospital five times without success, but insisted that the station had followed proper procedures in approving the broadcast.

Tragedy: The receptionist was found unconscious and later died after handling a prank call by Australian radio DJs concerning the condition of Kate Middleton as she was treated for extreme morning sickness

Tragedy: Kate and WIlliam have said they are
'deeply saddened' by Jacintha Saldanha's death and paid tribute to the
care the Duchess received at the King Edward VII

The executive was asked whether any authority figures had been present during the prank call, and replied: 'I think that is an important question to ask and I want to make it clear that these two individuals operated with the normal procedures that we have within our business.

'I think that it is important that these two individuals did not recklessly put something to air. It went through a process.'

However, he did not elaborate on who might have signed off on the show before it went on air.

As chief executive on a salary of around A$1.3million (850,000), Holleran is unlikely to have had any involvement in the day-to-day business of 2Day, one of dozens of stations owned by Austereo.

The executive producer of Hot30, who is presumably responsible for everything broadcast on the show, is Emily Mills, a woman in her late 20s or early 30s who has worked on the programme since May.

Mills has deleted her accounts on social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn since the controversy over the prank call broke last week.

Since the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha on Friday, there have been growing calls for the station to be prosecuted over the hoax.

Under Australian law, it is illegal to make a 'menacing, harrassing or offensive' phone call, and to broadcast a surreptitiously recorded call without the permission of the recipient.

However, Austereo insists it has done nothing wrong, as the phone call was made to the UK and is therefore not covered by Australian laws.

The Hot30 show has been taken off the air – but all of those who worked for it and for the station are believed to have kept their jobs.

This stands in stark contrast to similar incidents in the UK – for example, the prank calls made to actor Andrew Sachs by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in 2008, which led to the resignations of Brand and Radio 2 boss Lesley Douglas and the suspension of Ross.

And this year has seen the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle, as well as many others, in the wake of the fall-out from the Jimmy Savile scandal.

VIDEO: DJs say decision to make the call was a group one, following set procedure

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