Australia media watchdog opens fast-track probe into royal prank call

Australia media watchdog opens fast-track probe into royal prank call

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Melbourne:  Australia's media watchdog on Thursday launched a rare fast-track probe into the broadcast of a prank call by a Sydney-based radio station to a UK hospital treating pregnant Princes Kate that led to the death of an Indian- origin nurse.

The hoax sparked global condemnation and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said it was using its special powers to launch a rare "own motion" probe contrary to other cases where it has to wait for complaints.

A spokesman of ACMA said it would investigate whether the licence holder Today FM Sydney Pty Ltd, breached its licence conditions or the industry's code of practice.

It will examine whether the network breached standards of decency, invaded privacy or broke rules of consent.

The media watchdog said it "will be seeking to expedite this investigation and does not propose making any further statement while its investigation is underway".

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, had taken a call from two radio presenters from 2Day FM, Michael Christian and Mel Greig who were pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, at the King Edward VII's Hospital, where Kate was being treated for severe morning sickness.

Saldanha was found dead on December 7, three days after taking the call from the two Australian DJs. The stunned radio hosts have since stepped down from their show following the tragedy and have apologised for their action.

Meanwhile, The Age newspaper on Thursday quoted a 2Day FM spokeswoman who said an internal investigation found that "all procedures and protocols were adhered to." However, no details of the investigation were released.

If it is found that the station breached a licence condition, then it could lose its right to broadcast, may be subject to tighter restrictions and possibly a hefty fine.

The paper said that under the probe, the parent company, Southern Cross Austereo could be forced to name the employees who approved the prank.

Those who could face an inquiry are station content director Derek Bargwanna, station manager Jeremy Simpson, national content director Craig Bruce, metropolitan radio chief Guy Dobson and both the DJs and producers Emily Mills and Ben Harlum.

Story First Published: December 13, 2012 23:40 IST

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