Thirteen days ago, British nurse Jacintha Saldanha was found dead. Her grieving family is now asking for the "full facts" about the hoax call that preceded her death. Yet the radio network responsible for the hoax - Southern Cross Austereo - is refusing to release these facts.
The DJs who made the prank call, Michael Christian and Mel Greig, have drawn international criticism and are reported to have received death threats. But they did not act alone. Senior staff inside Austereo were aware of, and approved, the broadcast. So far, they have failed to step forward, leaving Christian and Greig to bear the brunt of the attacks.
Meanwhile, Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran continues to evade legitimate queries about how the hoax unfolded and the actions of his employees. In place of straight answers, he appears to be repeating scripted statements, bereft of detail, about "this tragic and unforseen event".
Fairfax Media again calls on the company to give clear and direct responses to these questions:
- Was it appropriate to prank call a hospital?
- Was it appropriate to seek private medical information about a sick, pregnant woman?
- Whose idea was this prank?
- The DJs, Michael Christian and Mel Greig, didn't expect to obtain private medical information about Kate Middleton - but when they did, why didn't they end that call immediately?
- Why was it then deemed appropriate to broadcast that private medical information on a national radio network - and make that segment available to a worldwide audience?
- Mr Holleran claims his employees tried "at least five times" to contact the hospital to get permission to broadcast the segment. Why did they do this?
- Who made these phone calls?
- If permission was not obtained, why was the segment aired?
- The hospital claims it was not contacted by Austereo before the broadcast. Will Austereo release records to prove these phone calls were made?
- The NSW Surveillance Devices Act prohibits publication of a private conversation obtained by listening devices without consent. The UK Data Protection Act makes it an offence to knowingly or recklessly obtain personal data without consent. Was Austereo aware of these laws when it broadcast the prank?
- What evidence does Austereo have that it complied with these laws?
- Section 9.3 of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice specifically refers to "pranks". It states the licencee must obtain the subject's consent "prior to the broadcast of the relevant content". What evidences does Austereo have that it complied with this requirement?
- Australian laws prevent the recording and broadcast of prank calls without the subject's consent. What does Austereo believe is the purpose of these laws?
- Even if Austereo was not legally compelled to obtain Ms Saldanha's permission, was it not ethically obliged to do so?
- After the phone call was made - and before it was broadcast - what consideration was given to the potential effects on the "prank victims", including Ms Saldanha?
- The broadcast of the prank drew global media attention, which was arguably forseeable. Given Ms Saldanha was fooled into thinking she spoke with Prince Charles and the Queen, and had unwittingly facilitated a breach of the royal family's privacy, was it not forseeable she would be professionally and personally embarrassed?
- Could this embarrassment have been compounded by Austereo's promotion of the prank and the international media coverage this generated?
- Fairfax Media has been told that 2Day FM employees receive "standards and decency" training every three months, including the specific instruction "not to air any prank calls without permission". Is this true?
- How many of these training sessions did DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig (and their producers Emily Mills and Ben Harlum) attend?
- If all staff are trained not to air prank calls without permission, why was this call broadcast?
- Fairfax Media has been told there is "a clear chain of command" through which questions about prank calls must be escalated. Which employees comprise this chain of command?
- Which of these Austereo employees were aware of the plan to prank call the hospital: station content director Derek Bargwanna, assistant content director Adam Williscroft, station manager Jeremy Simpson, national content director Craig Bruce, metropolitan radio chief Guy Dobson?
- Which of these employees were aware of the segment before it aired?
- Which gave their consent?
- It is understood that Austereo's in-house lawyers approved the prank broadcast. What are their reasons?
- Fairfax Media understands the prank was broadcast just a few hours after the call was made. Did this leave enough time for 2Day FM's "approval and escalation" protocols to be properly implemented?
- Austereo's internal review found that "all procedures and protocols were adhered to". Why is the company refusing to release this review?
- Christian and Greig claim their superiors approved the broadcast. Why have these employees not identified themselves or explained their decision?
- By refusing to step forward, are they letting Christian and Greig suffer disproportionate blame and public scrutiny?
- With whom does the buck stop?
- The station from which the prank call was made, 2Day FM, has been embroiled in many controversies including: the lie detector rape scandal; a contest police claim encouraged dangerous driving; a competition in which a woman was flown from the US and forced to cry and beg on her knees to meet a relative; a prank call in which a DJ impersonated a school official and told a top-ranking student her score was wrong, reducing her to tears; a presenter being offered $50 each time she made a listener cry; listeners being tricked into believing a popular presenter was dead; a promotion called "Heartless Hotline" in which a parent of a disabled child was forced to argue with another caller to get Easter Show tickets; a promotion in which the parents of a disabled child claimed they did not receive the full amount pledged to them on air; Kyle Sandilands making fun of a disabled baby; Sandilands suggesting Magda Szubanski be "put in a concentration camp" to lose weight; Sandilands calling a female journalist a "fat slag" and threatening to "hunt her down"; a competition in which women were lined up behind two panels - exposing only their vaginas - and requiring a man to identify his girlfriend by her genitals; a competition to find Sydney's smallest penis; a competition in which a prize was hidden in the body rolls of an obese woman who was branded a "pig", with footage streamed online; a stunt in which employees competed to see who could masturbate the fastest and produce the highest sperm count; and an intended stunt in which female listeners would compete to impregnate themselves with the sperm of a local celebrity. What do these incidents say about the culture of Austereo?
- What role have metropolitan radio chief Guy Dobson and national content director Craig Bruce played in creating and encouraging this culture?
- The program on which the prank aired, The Summer 30, is broadcast nationally on Austereo's Today Network. Why did Austereo restrict the advertising suspension and subsequent charity donation to Sydney's 2Day FM only?
- Does Austereo believe Christian and Greig have a future with the network?
- British MP Keith Vaz, a spokesman for Ms Saldanha's family, has requested an Austereo representative travel to the UK to meet them. Will the company agree to this and who will be its representative?
- Mr Vaz said Ms Saldanha's family "want answers" and "full facts" about the tragedy. Why has Austereo failed to give them these facts?
- In light of 2Day FM's many previous controversies, its breaches of licence and now the prank call tragedy, does Austereo believe it is sufficiently responsible and ethical to hold a broadcast licence? If so, why?
Austereo's response: Austereo refused to answer these questions directly. The company said it would comply with all investigations and reissued a statement it released last week.
In part, the statement said: "Several attempts were made by the production team to discuss the segment with the hospital, but with no success. The segment was referred to an internal review process, which included internal legal review, and authorisation was granted to broadcast. The company does not consider that the broadcast breached any relevant law, regulation or code."
In the statement, Mr Holleran said: "We would like to express our deep and sincere condolences to the family of Jacintha Saldanha. We are very sorry for what has happened.
"As a leading commercial radio broadcaster, we must ensure that our internal processes and protocols are robust ... we are providing support to our people who are deeply saddened by this tragic and unforseen event."
For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.