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Monday, December 17, 2012

After Radio Prank, Hospital Chairman Condemns Australian Network

Jacintha SaldanhaMetropolitan Police, via Associated Press Jacintha Saldanha

Last Updated, 3:28 p.m. A day after a nurse at a London hospital was found dead after falling victim to a prank call seeking medical information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, the hospital's chairman issued a scathing indictment of the Australian network that broadcast the hoax.

Lord Glenarthur, the chairman of King Edward VII's Hospital, where the duchess, Kate Middleton, was bein g treated for acute morning sickness, called the prank “extremely foolish” and the decision to broadcast it “appalling.” The Guardian published the complete text of the letter. “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. King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call,” Lord Glenarthur wrote.

He continued:

Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling. T he 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.

The London police on Saturday also released a picture of the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, 46, who was found dead on Friday in a suspected suicide.

The chief executive of the Australian radio station that broadcast the call told reporters at a news conference in Melbourne on Saturday that while the nurse's suicide was tragic, he believed the two radio hosts had not broken any laws.

A statement by Rhys Holleran, the head of the Austereo network, which owns the radio station that broadcast a prank call to a London hospital last week.

Rhys Holleran, the head of the Austereo network, which owns the radio station, 2Day FM, said there was no way the radio hosts could have predicted the fallout from their call.

“We are very confident that we haven't done anything illegal,” Mr. Holleran said. “We are satisfied that the procedures we have in place have been met.”

“Our main concern at this point in time is that what has happened is deeply tragic and we are incredibly saddened and we are incredibly affected by that.”

Many of the station's most prominent advertisers vowed to cease advertising, including Coles supermarket, which posted the following message on its Facebook page:

We understand Australians are clearly angry and upset by what appear to be tragic consequences of the 2Day FM UK hospital prank. We have wanted to let you know we have instructed 2Day FM to remove all Coles group advertising from the station as soon as possible.

The radio hosts who made the call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, initially basked in the international attention that came their way after the prank, which took place on Tuesday, was picked up by news agencies around the world.

But as public opinion turned against the duo even before Ms. Saldanha was found dead, they expressed their regret< /a> and were taken off the air.

Since the news of the nurse's death, the radio hosts have not spoken publicly.

Mr. Holleran said that they were struggling with the seemingly devastating consequences of a joke gone horribly wrong.

“I spoke to both presenters early this morning, and it's fair to say they're completely shattered,” he said. “These people aren't machines, they're human beings. We're all affected by this.”