Today Network boss: We broke no rules over prank call to nurse

Southern Cross Austereo’s CEO Rhys Holleran has told a press conference that the company did nothing illegal and broke no rules over a prank call conducted by two Today Network presenters which has been linked to the suicide of a nurse in the UK.

rhys holleran

Holleran’s press conference | Source: Sky News

His comments came at a press conference called by SCA in Melbourne this afternoon at which he reiterated the organisation’s condolences.

News broke of the tragedy in the early hours of the morning, Australian time.

It emerged that Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who put through the call from Michael ‘MC’ Christian and Mel Greig, had been found dead, apprently having killed herself. During the call the duo pretended to be Prince Charles and The Queen and persuaded another nurse to share information about the medical condition of the Duchess of Cambridge who was in the hospital with acute morning sickness.

Earlier today Coles was the first major Australian brand to pull its ads from the Today Network. Meanwhile the Australian Communications and Media Authority said it was to talk to SCA about the tragedy.

sca logoSCA owns two major Australian radio networks – the Today Network, which includes 2Day FM in Sydney, Fox FM in Melbourne, SAFM in Adelaide, 92.9 in Perth and B105 in Brisbane, and rock brand Triple M.

Holleran said at the press conference:”Southern Cross Austereo is committed to working with the authorities in any investigation.

“We’re confident we’ve broken no rules. We are very confident that we haven’t done anything illegal.”

He said of the two presenters: “It’s fair to say they are completely shattered.”

Asked about advertisers withdrawing their support, Holleran said: “We are in constant dialogue with our advertisers at all times and those conversations shall remain private. We respect they have the right to make the decisions that are best for them.”

He added: “Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades. No-one could reasonably foreseen what ended up being a very tragic and sad day for us.”

Audio of the press conference (Source: SCA):

  • Lifeline: Call 13 11 14


  1. Brutally honest
    8 Dec 12
    2:51 pm

  2. Haven’t broken any rules – but how many hearts have you broken?

    The head of the hospital directly links the death with the prank call.

    Great way to say merry christmas to the nurse who probably looked after Kate and congrats to Will + Kate on the new baby.

    Well done mate, you didn’t break any rules. Well done.

  3. James
    8 Dec 12
    2:59 pm

  4. I’m a little disturbed that the public and news commentariate equate this episode to those of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. There was no malice, in fact, they were audibly astounded that the prank went on for so long. It is blatantly obvious that there was more to the Nurse’s state of Mind than we are aware of, or are being told. A sad tale and 2DayFM’s people are right to be concerned, but they are guilty of nothing but bad taste in this instance. (in my opinion.)

  5. Susan
    8 Dec 12
    3:01 pm

  6. “Not illegal”: The dernier cri of those who have wronged. Covering potential litigation bases isn’t going to satisfy most posters on their FB page today I suspect; nor does it address the moral responsibility issue nor acting in ways that could potentially cause harm. We’ve not seen or heard the last of this issue by a long chalk.

    This: “Prank calls as a craft in radio have been going for decades and decades. No-one could reasonably foreseen what ended up being a very tragic and sad day for us” sounds desperate. If you claim your organisation is well practiced and versed in a “craft” then you would presume formal consideration would have been given to what MAY be potential adverse repercussions if the prank was successful. They really don’t seem to have taken that next step in the logical sequence of duty and care.

    And, please, against the loss for two children et al, do stop talking about “your” sad day. I know why they are loathe to say much about the death but they could at least stop doing the pity party script in the way that they are.

  7. Jack
    8 Dec 12
    3:11 pm

  8. Impersonating the Queen of England is an act of treason in this country. Am I now to assume that Rhys Holleran is an international legal expert and can assure Mel Greig that she has NOT committed an act of High Treason, and that as a consequence that she will NOT be subject to a term of life imprisonment for that offence ?

  9. shane
    8 Dec 12
    3:19 pm

  10. This is the same crowd that employ that Kyle snake.
    That alone should be enough to understand their morals.
    They thrive and profit on this.

  11. Anne
    8 Dec 12
    4:25 pm

  12. Find the lawyer that told you to say that you broke no rules. Then have the decency to tell them that while you broke no rules, you broke a family.

    Your lack of judgment is galling.

    Kate was having morning sickness that was acute and was being treated in hospital. What made you think it would be ok to disturb her?

    Ahh…you didn’t think.

  13. BD
    8 Dec 12
    4:26 pm

  14. A few points:
    + Of course nobody intended this tragic outcome.
    + No law was broken (probably), although the Commercial Radio code of conduct may have been (were the two nurses advised it would go to air and given the opportunity to refuse permission?).
    + Prank calls have been going on for decades. Time for something new, perhaps.
    + … and time for a reality check. There is an undercurrent of nastiness (or, at least, mean-spiritedness) running through commercial radio, and other media. This is a reminder that you are dealing with human beings.

  15. Lindsay.
    8 Dec 12
    4:50 pm

  16. The death of Jacintha Saldanha in what may be a suicide is obviously a tragedy that should not have happened.
    However as we do not know why she died, it might be better if all those rushing to condemn Mel Greig and Michael Christian stop for a moment and think about what they are doing.
    The people running the hospital in England stood by Jacintha, and the British Royal family does not appear to be offended by the prank. So the prank seems to be taken fro what it was, a prank.
    However vast numbers of people expressing their views in the social media seem to think they know better. It just might be the over reaction of these people who are the ones who should be taking the blame for this tragedy.

  17. nickatnights
    8 Dec 12
    4:53 pm

  18. Isn’t recording someone’s voice without their permission a crime in NSW? I am pretty sure even the police need a magistrate’s permission before they can wear a wire.

    I assume 2DayFM had the nurses permission to record her voice.


  19. Kernil
    8 Dec 12
    6:12 pm

  20. @Susan. The most eloquent response to this tragedy I have read so far.

  21. Meg
    8 Dec 12
    6:21 pm

  22. When the story broke about this hoax, the focus was all on the royals. Little consideration for the nurse who took the call. What was she supposed to do – question the veracity of the call and risk being reprimanded? Or assume its real and then risk global humiliation? Great that 2Day checked the legal aspect, but didn’t for one moment consider the human aspect and the effect on the nurse. Once she gave out sensitive info, they could have have stopped it there, perhaps considered her position and not broadcast it. But no.

    You can’t hold them responsible for her suicide but you can certainly hold them responsible for incredible insensitivity and selfishness. Culturally here we may find the royals a bit of a joke, but for this poor lady, it may have been her moment to serve and honour those she held in esteem, and then realise she had inadvertently been the butt of a joke and had blown that important position, and, even worse, was in the global spotlight because of it. Humiliation on a global scale, how many if us could laugh that off? Whatever the case it was too much for her.

    Lesson learned. Not just legal advice, seek moral advice next time 2Day FM. And outside your organization because it’s obviously lacking within.

  23. Blind Freddy
    8 Dec 12
    9:08 pm

  24. You may have broken no written rules, but you definitely broke a moral one. You may not know what morality is given the stations past history though. That is no defence however…..

  25. What a shame
    8 Dec 12
    9:28 pm

  26. “We’re confident we’ve broken no rules”

    They just have no heart. So the station isn’t responsible.

    “Nobody could have reasonably foreseen” – So the DJ’s aren’t responsible.

    But surely, they are partly responsible. Where in all the hoopla have you heard
    “We are deeply sorry and saddened by this, to Jacinta, the hospital staff, Kate, Will and the families affected by this”?

    Nowhere. Get a decent crisis management PR agency, out of all radio stations you need one.

    What an absolutely tragic waste of a life, by greedy corporate execs.

    This prank is one too far.

  27. Listener
    9 Dec 12
    2:02 am

  28. They did break the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Commercial Radio Code of Practice:

    “A licensee must not broadcast the words of an identifiable person unless:

    a) That person has been informed in advance or a reasonable person would be aware that the words may be broadcast

    b) In the case of words which have been recorded without the knowledge of that person, that person has subsequently, but prior to the broadcast, expressed consent to the broadcast of their words.”

    It’s clear that the two DJs involved have broken the rules. No consent was given. How Rhys Holleran can say otherwise is beyond belief.

  29. Tony
    9 Dec 12
    9:15 am

  30. Making fun of people is now seen as a form of entertainment. Even the most serious news stories have to be followed up by some kind of pathetic quip. It’s all about getting a laugh out of a story at someones expense.

    Radio stations make excuses that pranks are justifiable because they are part of radio and run for this defence when they have the occasional tragic consequence
    as a result of school yard behavior.

    We also have TV programs such as The Project who run a series of sometimes serious stories backed up by carefully scripted mocking and quips in an inane effort to milk a laugh out of everything.

    The schoolyard behavior is simply tiresome and boring and along the way toys with people’s lives for a quick laugh without any responsibility for the consequences.

  31. Jame W
    9 Dec 12
    10:29 am

  32. The focus and attention is being wrongly put on the presenters. The heads of content at Austereo are ultimately responsible for what goes to air and this is the third strike under their watch. The presenters are too in experienced to know what should and shouldnt be of risk
    The gutless content heads should also take responsibility to divert the attention away from the presenters who are being viciously attacked.
    Seems the arrogant culture at that business is really shining through now with management not prepared to protect these ‘green’ presenters.

  33. Rob
    10 Dec 12
    8:48 am

  34. Prank calls can be funny, but these guys clearly had little or no guidance as to what to ask when they got through – to start with a line of questioning that was clearly focussed on deliberately extracting personal information illegally isn’t a prank, it is fraud.

    How many times do we need to see presenters end up in this position before Austereo get their act together – they clearly have some very misguided policy makers with little to zero judgement.

  35. Keithy
    10 Dec 12
    11:50 am

  36. This is another sounding example of huge cultural and value issues within Austero and their decision makers!

    I don’t fully blame the DJs as they had to get approval from the producers and legal before running this on air. Surely it’s the Producer(s) and legal dept that need to be fired etc?

    Proof that this is a bigger cultural issue within Austero can simply be found in the program and talent they continually defend and nurture in Kyle and Jackie O – how are these people (particularly Kyle) still on air…… easy it’s clearly part of the culture and value system with the organisation at large

  37. Mitch
    10 Dec 12
    1:35 pm

  38. Well said Jame W. There was a serious breach of the code in not seeking consent from the nurse at the end of the call or doing a ‘reveal’ to say “Haha, we’re from Aussie radio and the call was a bit of a fun prank, we hope that’s ok”.

    The issue is that the presenters are simply puppets who take direction from show producers and content heads. Where are their names in all of this. They’re the people who consciously made the decision to air this content and set the wheels in motion.

    Again, another gutless act by SCA given Kyle’s various infractions in recent times. It’s low moral radio to procure ratings and profit.

  39. Spindoctor
    10 Dec 12
    3:46 pm

  40. In his lame response to this tragedy, Rhys Holleran says, in part, “Prank calls as a craft in radio…” A craft? The man must be joking. Where is the art? Surely any thinking person would assume that the end result of such a call to the hospital would at least result in a very strong reprimand or the possible sacking of the nurse involved. What price entertainment! Unfortunately, the young radio presenters were only following the pattern for what this station is infamous for – crap broadcasting of the lowest level and, sadly, they have become the scapegoats in this tragedy.

  41. C2DE
    10 Dec 12
    3:47 pm

  42. What a lovely chap Rhys seems to be….genuinely concerned about making this statement a damage limitation exercise for Austereo.