December 09, 2012
Horse 1412 - 2DayFM Are Not Responsible
It is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions that the nurse who put the prank call through to Princess Kate's ward should have taken her life. Just as it is an enormous tragedy when anyone takes their life. But to all those - particularly the British media - who are firing vicious epithets at the two radio DJs who are the public face of that prank call, blaming them for the tragedy, please get a grip.
What, precisely, are they guilty of?
Making a prank call? Which DJ in the history of the world hasn't made prank calls? It is part of the genre, a practice beloved through the generations and around the world, including all over Britain.
- Peter Fitzsimons, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9th Dec 2012
Predictably, the Daily Telegraph in Sydney which by nature is a popularist news paper (News Corporation has hanging issues of its own to do with media ethics, the organisation is not above hacking the phones of the dead) had this to say on the subject in its editorial "A time to grieve, not to lay blame"
"Radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian did not kill British nurse Jacintha Saldanha. Suicide always leaves us looking for answers- and for someone to blame."
"Inevitably this death will prompt calls for tighter media regulation. A few points. These DJs are not journalists. Broadcast media, unlike print press, are already heavily regulated by statutory authorities, here and in the UK."
- Editorial, Daily Telegraph, 9th Dec 2012.
That is a very interesting question. What precisely are they guilty of? Pulling a phone prank isn't a crime even if the consequences have led to someone's suicide. Broadcast media are as suggested regulated by statutory authorities; specifically in Australia by ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Through the Commercial Radio Australia division they lay down the Codes of Practice & Guidelines for commercial radio (ABC and SBS are covered by their own charters).
Clause 6.1 of the code states that:
The purpose of this Code is to prevent the unauthorised broadcast of
statements by identifiable persons.
6.1 A licensee must not broadcast the words of an identifiable person
(a) that person has been informed in advance or a reasonable person would be aware that the words may be broadcast; or
(b) in the case of words which have been recorded without the knowledge of the person, that person has subsequently, but prior to the broadcast, expressed consent to the broadcast of the words.
To assume that a 'reasonable person' at the King Edward VII hospital in London would even be aware of a Sydney radio station's existence let alone that their conversation would be broadcast (and later nationally across the Austereo network) is close to bordering on nonsense.
Perhaps more telling is clause 1.3:
(a) Program content must not offend generally accepted standards of decency (for example, through the use of unjustified language), having regard to the demographic characteristics of the audience of the relevant program.
I suggest that it's generally accepted as decent that you wouldn't ring up a hospital where someone is obviously sick and ask for their medical details to be broadcast on the radio. Pretending to be family in order to obtain medical details, so that you can broadcast them on radio is obviously an 'hilarious' thing to do isn't it?
Mind you, 2DayFM have a track record when it comes to breaching the codes of practice. Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O repeatedly questioned a teenage girl after she had revealed that she had been raped when she was 12. Kyle himself labelled Alison Stephenson of News.Com all sorts of horrid insults before telling her to "Watch your mouth or I'll hunt you down."
What, precisely, are they guilty of? They being 2Day FM, are guilty of breaking the codes of practice whenever they feel like and guilty of crossing the lines of decency. Again there will be the bloodletting of a few individuals and possibly a few sackings of people which will help diffuse blame for this but this is 2DayFM's modus operandi .
There's not even so much as a display of regret on their website, although the actual page proudly boasting about the prank has been deleted. I note that NSW Police has received a formal request from Scotland Yard to look into this "non-suspicious death" because there will need to be a coroner's report.
I do agree though that we all should "get a grip". Mel Greig and Michael Christian do not appear so much to have been punished but have become scapegoats for this sorry sorry chain of events. I hope that both of them go on to find successful employment at somewhere sensible like the ABC. Someone should have been responsible at the time like the producers who put the program to air. That I would guess is what's really lacking here, 2DayFM don't really have a 'responsible' adult on deck in any sense of the word here.
Posted by Rollo at 14:27