Australia broadcaster meets on hospital letter: report

Agence France-Presse

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Executives at Southern Cross Austereo, owners of 2Day FM, were to consider a letter from King Edward VII's Hospital chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur, protesting the "appalling" hoax "in the strongest possible terms"

Pedestrians walk past the door of the King Edward VII hospital in central London on December 8, 2012 a day after Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse at the hospital, was found dead at a property close by. AFP PHOTO / WILL OLIVER

SYDNEY, Australia – The owners of an Australian radio station called an emergency meeting Sunday, December 9, to discuss the mounting crisis over a prank call following the death of a nurse at a London hospital treating Prince William’s wife Kate.

Executives at Southern Cross Austereo, owners of 2Day FM, were to consider a letter from King Edward VII’s Hospital chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur, protesting the “appalling” hoax “in the strongest possible terms”.

“We’re considering that letter and I’ll be responding to them after I discuss it with my board colleagues later today,” Southern Cross Austereo chairman Max Moore-Wilton told the Sydney Morning Herald online.

Glenarthur urged Moore-Wilton in the letter to ensure that such hoax calls never happen again.

“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,” he wrote.

Asked whether he would take action along these lines, Moore-Wilton said: “I’ve got really no comment until I have a discussion with my board colleagues.”

Britain has reacted with horror to the death of mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, who is believed to have taken her own life after she was duped by two 2Day FM presenters seeking news on Kate’s pregnancy.

She was found dead on Friday, days after she answered a call at the hospital from hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian, posing as Queen Elizabeth II and William’s father Prince Charles.

There was no receptionist on duty and Saldanha put them through to a colleague who divulged details of Kate’s recovery from severe morning sickness.

The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney.

The nurse’s death unleashed a torrent of online anger directed at the presenters who have been taken off air and are in hiding, while reports said advertisers have suspended their accounts with the broadcaster.

Flowers were placed on Saturday, December 8, outside the nurses’ accommodation block where Saldanha’s body was discovered.

At the family home in Bristol, southwest England, relatives and friends gathered round to comfort Saldanha’s husband Benedict Barboza and the couple’s son and daughter, aged 14 and 16.

Reports said the family had moved from India around a decade ago.

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Barboza reportedly wrote: “I am devastated with the tragic loss of my beloved wife Jacintha in tragic circumstances, She will be laid to rest in Shirva, India.”

Saldanha’s sister-in-law Irene D’Souza told AFP by telephone from the town of Shirva, 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the southern Indian city of Bangalore, that she was due to visit them at Christmas.

“It is hard to believe Jacintha could commit suicide as she was not the type of woman to do it,” D’Souza said.

Australian newspapers said Greig and Christian face questioning by police after a request from Scotland Yard.

“But I have to stress it hasn’t been indicated to us that an offense has occurred,” New South Wales state deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas said.

“They have not asked for anything yet. They simply touched base and let us know of their interest and they will get back to us if they want anything done.”

The British press condemned the hoax on Sunday, while Australian media said it was not the time for “hysterical finger-pointing”.

“Radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian did not kill British nurse Jacintha Saldanha,” said Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in an editorial, hitting out at the “predictable British media frenzy”.

“Suicide always leaves us looking for answers — and for someone to blame. Suicide is a complex act and can rarely be entirely blamed on a lone event, however distressing,” it added.

While reports have referred to suicide, British police said the death remained unexplained ahead of a post-mortem.

Greig and Christian have both apologized. Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said they were “shattered” and undergoing counseling. – Martin Parry, Agence France-Presse

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