Australia’s media watchdog on Thursday launched an investigation into the broadcast of a prank call to the London hospital treating Prince William’s pregnant wife Catherine.
The hoax sparked global condemnation with the nurse who fielded the call, Jacintha Saldanha, apparently committing suicide. The result of her post-mortem is due to be announced later on Thursday, according to British police.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said its probe was into the broadcaster, 2Day FM, and not presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian who have borne the brunt of worldwide anger.
“The ACMA’s formal regulatory relationship is always with the relevant licensee (and not the presenters of any broadcast in question),” ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement.
“The ACMA will be examining whether the licensee has complied with its broadcasting obligations.”
When complaints are received about broadcasters in Australia, the regulator’s usual process is to give them 60 days to respond.
But it also has discretionary powers to launch an immediate investigation if the issue is serious enough and deemed to be in the public interest, a clause it has enacted.
ACMA will examine whether 2Day FM, which is owned by Southern Cross Austereo, breached standards of decency, invaded privacy or broke rules of consent in line with the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice.
If it did, the station’s right to broadcast could either be cancelled, restrictions put on its licence or it could fined.
Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, has said the station called London’s King Edward VII Hospital five times to discuss what it had recorded before going to air.
Under Australian regulations, the permission of anyone on the receiving end of a radio prank must be sought before the call can be broadcast.
The hospital has denied anyone within its senior management or media unit was contacted.
Indian-born mother-of-two Saldanha put the call through to a colleague who divulged details of Kate’s recovery from severe morning sickness.
She was found dead three days later, last Friday. British media reports said she hanged herself, although police were not able to confirm this.