The two DJs spoke to the media for the first time since they went into hiding on Saturday.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
The two DJs at the centre of a prank call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying have spoken for the first time since the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian told of their distress upon hearing about Saldanha’s death.
“[It was] the worst phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” Greig told the Nine network’s A Current Affair programme.
“There’s not a minute that goes by that I don’t think about what that family [of nurse Jacintha Saldanha] is going through and the thought that we may have contributed to it is gut-wrenching,” she said.
Asked if she had a message for Saldanha’s family, Greig said she’d thought about it “a million times in my head and have wanted to reach out to them and just give them a big hug. I hope they’re OK, I really do”.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” said Michael Christian. “We just hope that her family and friends are being as good as they can be and are giving [them] the love and support they need. We are shattered.”
The two DJs were speaking for the first time since they went into hiding on Saturday when news broke of the the death. They gave interviews to both Channel Nine and Channel Seven’s main evening current affairs programmes.
Asked by Channel 9 whose idea the prank call was, the DJs said it had come up at a team meeting before the show, but did not say who suggested it.
“We had the idea for a simple harmless call. A call that would go for 30 seconds that we thought we would be hung up on,” said Christian. Neither expected their call to be put through to the Duchess of Cambridge’s room.
Christian and Greig said they thought the joke was on them and their poor accents rather than on the nurses.
“Every other media outlet wanted to touch on it. Our angle was having those silly accents,” said Grieg.
They reiterated that no one could have expected or foreseen what happened after the call. “At every single point it was innocent on our behalf. It was something that was funny and lighthearted and a tragic turn of events that I don’t think could have predicted,” said Christian.
Both DJs said they had not participated in the vetting of the interview. They said it was standard practice for them to record an item then hand it over to be assessed by others. Both said they did not know what the vetting process included.
The segment was subject to an internal review, including with 2Day FM’s lawyers, before it went to air.
The DJs pulled out of a third interview they were scheduled to do for The Project, on the Ten network, because they were unwell, according to a spokesman for the TV channel.
The host of the Nine programme, Tracey Grimshaw, earlier tweeted that the interview had not been paid for. It was “neither asked nor offered”, she said.
Grimshaw told Fairfax Media the prerecorded interview was “very intense” with a lot of people in the room including radio station staff and supporters. She said she felt sympathy for the DJs.
“They’re at a certain point on the food chain. There are other people who made the decision to put it to air. It wasn’t live to air. There was a decision made after that prank call was recorded to put it to air, and virtually all the focus has been on them,” Grimshaw said.
Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, said the station attempted to contact King Edward VII hospital “no less than five times” before broadcasting the pre-recorded material.
“It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions,” Holleran told Fairfax Media. “We rang them to discuss what we had recorded,” he said, adding that this was done before the recorded prank went to air. “Absolutely. We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions. We wanted to speak to them about it.”
Holleran reiterated that he was “deeply saddened” by the tragic events that had unfolded since the call but again said no one could have reasonably foreseen the circumstances. He said the station was happy to co-operate with any investigation into the incident.
In a statement, the radio station’s owner, Southern Cross Austero Media, said it had suspended advertising on 2Day FM until further notice, ended Greig and Christian’s Hot 30 show and suspended prank calls across the company.
“The company does not consider that the broadcast of the segment has breached any relevant law, regulation or code. The company will fully co-operate with any investigations,” the statement said.
The industry-drawn-up Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and Guidelines state that a station must not broadcast the words of an identifiable person unless they have been informed in advance that the recording may go to air. If someone is unaware they are being recorded, the interviewee must grant consent for it to be played, prior to anything being broadcast.
This is not the first time the radio station 2Day FM has been in trouble. It has had two licence conditions imposed on it in the past three years by the statutory regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The first followed an on-air incident in 2009 in which a 14-year-old girl was strapped to a lie detector, and was questioned by her mother about whether she was sexually active. The mother volunteered to quiz her daughter despite apparently already knowing she had been sexually assaulted.
When she said that she had been raped at age 12, 2Day FM’s ‘shock jock’, Kyle Sandilands, who presented the show with DJ Jackie O’Neil, then asked: “Right, and is that the only sexual experience you’ve had?” The interview ended after O’Neil stepped in and she and Sandilands apologised.
ACMA found that the station had breached standards of decency and ordered the it to implement staff training programmes.
In 2012 another licence condition was imposed after Sandilands insulted a female journalist for reporting the low ratings of a TV show that he and O’Neil had presented.
“Some fat slag on [the media website] news.com.au has already branded it a disaster,” he said. “You can tell by reading the article that she just hates us and has always hated us. What a fat, bitter thing you are. You’re deputy editor of an online thing. You’ve got a nothing job anyway. You’re a piece of shit.”
ACMA made the Code’s decency requirement (which says “programme content must not offend generally accepted standards of decency”) a condition of the 2Day FM’s licence for a period of five years
Shares in Southern Cross Austereo fell 7.7% in early trading on the Australian stock market before recovering slightly.
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