Today Network management don’t deserve blame, but do need to take responsibility

today network logoOn Saturday afternoon, as I waited for the emergency press conference held by Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran to begin, I started to write a news story about his resignation.

Of course, he wasn’t to blame for the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, but somebody within the company needed to take responsibility, and I suspected they knew it.

With advertisers beginning to pull their support and the global backlash to the Today Network prank call getting underway, it was the only way I could see an end to the issue. If not Holleran, somebody else senior within the organisation.

rhys holleran

Holleran’s press conference | Source: Sky News

As you’ll know, it didn’t go down like that. Holleran expressed his sadness and sympathy, but went no further. The story of his resignation remained unpublished.

On Sunday night, I stood by with my story again, as the board of SCA met. With the opening of the ASX hours away, I anticipated decisive action.

Again the story went unpublished. Instead, the next morning I wrote about the $66m fall in the SCA share price.

And on Monday night, we saw presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian make tearful appearances on Seven and Nine, while Holleran stood in for them on Ten when they couldn’t go on.

Thus far, we understand no more about what the media company’s internal approval procedures were – and indeed have been left with the strong impression that neither did Greig and Christian.

But what we do know is that the Southern Cross Media – Austereo merger took place a year-and-a-half ago, and Holleran has been in charge of the company since then. That gives him responsibility for the culture, the procedures and, yes, the share price.

Somebody in the organisation decided that although the call undoubtedly invaded the privacy of a sick person, it was okay to air this because it did not breach the rules. We do not now if there was any internal discussion about the ethics.

In his handful of uncertain media appearances over the last couple of days, Holleran has come across as a decent, if somewhat awkward,  man in a difficult situation. He probably had no role in deciding whether to air the call (I’d be amazed if it went that high) – but that does not stop him from being ultimately responsible.

And while it may annoy the Australian media to have the phone-hacking, Royals-stalking British tabloids lecture us on ethics, there is a recent precedent for a media boss taking responsibility  for outcomes he had no part in.

Last month, George Entwistle resigned from the BBC after just 54 days in charge. He stepped down after the organisation bungled its investigations into a child abuse scandal. It wasn’t his fault, but he decided it was his responsibility.

The decision to axe the Hot 30 feels like an irrelevance aimed at trying to be seen to be doing something. Noone that I can think of was calling for that show to be axed.

The decision to suspend advertising on 2Day FM feels like a red herring – this was a national show. But thus far, the network has been successful as quarantining the backlash to Sydney’s 2Day FM only. There’s no logical reason to suspend ads on the Sydney station only.

But the problem with this sad tale is that there are no pantomime baddies. Everyone I’ve ever met for SCA have been decent people, whether on air talent or behind the scenes.

As I’ve said previously, nobody from the network has blood on their hands – the outcome was unforeseeable. But that does not mean that nobody should take responsibility.

And I’m not calling for Holleran to resign. But I do think he should consider it.

Until somebody from management takes responsibility, this is not going away.

Tim Burrowes


  1. E Craig
    11 Dec 12
    1:06 am

  2. Yes he should resign.

  3. Technojames
    11 Dec 12
    8:23 am

  4. They absolutely deserve blame and anyone associated with the prank should be held responsible.

  5. Sean
    11 Dec 12
    9:12 am

  6. no

  7. Kate
    11 Dec 12
    9:23 am

  8. I totally think he should! Rhys Holleran has been making excuses for a long time now. Doesn’t know what ‘decency’ is or at least claims it is ‘unworkable’. He could have been making changes, taking public sentiment on board, but no he was defiant, again and again claiming that his station had done no wrong – through all manner of pranks and bad behaviour.

    There is a very toxic culture at 2day FM and I don’t believe it has a hope of changing whilst that man is still sitting in that job excusing his people for acting in the most disgusting and exploitative manner.

    Rhys Holleran – and Derek Bargwanna in my opinion – it is TIME TO GO!

  9. Blame gamer
    11 Dec 12
    9:48 am

  10. Incredible how there has been almost zero focus on the producer of the show, who is ultimately responsible for the program’s output and content.

    Head of programming has also barely been mentioned. The silence is becoming deafening and oddly it seems the media seem content with focusing solely on the talent (off season talent at that)

    They haven’t made either of the people accoutable for the program or wider proframming parade in front of the current affairs shows (or any media) and explain the breakdown that eventuated.

  11. Kate
    11 Dec 12
    10:07 am

  12. Did anyone listen to Neil Mitchell’s interview with Rhys Holleran? Excruciating as he dodges and weaves trying to avoid the truth and fill with spin. Lots of questions still unanswered. Rhys Holleran doesn’t do his network any favors by playing cover up!

    Time to go Rhys, it really is!

  13. Serena
    11 Dec 12
    12:33 pm

  14. His claim of being unable to contact the hospital is not believable. The particular nurse was probably more difficult, and anyway most likely they didn’t have her name. If their policy was to always get clearance before broadcasting, why did they go without clearance? Probably because they judged that the prank had a very short shelf life. This is a case calling for directness and honesty, and we haven’t seen much of that from the station.

  15. amf
    11 Dec 12
    12:39 pm

  16. He lost me at “Regrettable…” Of course he should resign and the show’s Producer and two presenters should too. This station has form. They choose to drive ratings with their audience at other’s expense on a regular basis. To inflict humiliation onto a professional tasked with an important job, is completely unethical and potentially dangerous – and this time it was. Consider this: prank call gets through Nurse 1 responsible for screening calls; gets through Nurse 2 ’cause she assumes bona fides have been checked by Nurse 1; call gets through to sick patient; patient’s call is broadcast to the world; patient stress causes miscarriage. …..far fetched? These Nurses would be mortified that they enabled this breech of security and privacy. It’s dumb, stupid and Rys’ spin is nothing less than unconscionable.

  17. Rupert
    11 Dec 12
    12:42 pm

  18. Roz
    11 Dec 12
    1:13 pm

  19. Of COURSE this man should resign. No question about it. It is just a pity it was not sooner…he has become the Enabler for silly shallow self-centred staff to do their silly shallow jobs. But ultimately the ‘buck stops here’..with Ryhs Holleran. It seems he has encouraged (well, certainly not reigned back) such a toxic work environment that just gets worse and worse. If it were just one occasion of horrid on-air DJ crassness, maybe we could excuse it as being a DJ problem. But no! There are too many incidences of foulness…it MUST be the culture! Abuse and threats towards those perceived as weaker and more vulnerable, sexist put-downs, horrid on air threats and ‘pranks’! All have become synonymous with 2DayFM!
    And what about these “five calls’ made to the hospital? This is where the man loses ALL credibility! Five Calls Wow! And none of them reached the admin responsible for authorising this horrible ‘prank’. So, the ‘prank’ was authorised anyway?? Tryng to get through (five times!) does not actually mean receiving authorisation…no matter whether 2Dayfm tried once or 100 times! Get real, Rhys! The above artical claims Holloran is a ‘decent’ person…this is the man who unequivocally claimed confusion re what community standards of decency are and said that those imposed upon his station by ACMA were ‘unworkable’. Decent? I think not!

  20. nell schofield
    11 Dec 12
    1:16 pm

  21. completely idiotic to call for anyone’s resignation over this for Christ’s sake
    it was a simple prank call the likes of which are perpetuated daily on morning radio shows around the world

  22. Doug
    11 Dec 12
    1:20 pm

  23. Hold on a Sec… no-one has even mentioned the action that the hospital administration (probably) took in castigating that poor receptionist… and their role in making her feel like she was going to lose her job.
    Rhys Holleran is actually a good man, a good family man, who looks after his staff. I worked with him back at TT-FM – and dealt with him since – and he was nothing but supportive.
    He now finds himself in a very difficult role of protecting his staff AND protecting the business he built. He tells it like it is… and you always know where you stand with him.
    Unfortunately, the lawyers are now advising him and his staff on what to say, and what not to say (presumably to protect themselves from the fact the lawyer process was responsible for that practical joke going to air) and that then removes any personal, emotional response in favour of a contrived lawyer protected response.
    Temper your comments until we hear what happened in the UK Hospital.

  24. Hmmmm!
    11 Dec 12
    1:34 pm

  25. I would like to know more about the Hospital and her relationship with the staff there … there’s much more to this story and plenty of people are clearly hiding behing the media frenzy aimed at 2Day FM and the two DJs.

  26. ObiWon Kanobi
    11 Dec 12
    1:44 pm

  27. Doug…” Rhys Holleran is actually a good man, a good family man who looks after his staff”. Well that’s OK then let’s just leave it that. We don’t want to castigate ….”a good man , a good family man…”

  28. James Smith
    11 Dec 12
    1:48 pm

  29. The people who should resign are the people in charges of content. Dobson and the content directors.

    The attitude is “do it and worry about the code later”. People are put on air without any training, they are given pamphlets to read. They don’t care at all about regulation. How much money and lawyers fees are they going to spend before they realise it’s cheaper to not be as ‘controversial’.

  30. amf
    11 Dec 12
    1:49 pm

  31. Wonder how the other Nurse feels now? Doubt she’s a fan now….

    And Nell, because it’s going on all over the world every day doesn’t make it right.
    If it had never been broadcast, (and the law had been respected) things would be very different. If they had just followed the rules…

  32. Stephen Hale
    11 Dec 12
    2:01 pm

  33. I’m sorry but prank calls to a hospital are out of the question. Would anyone supporting this action allow this to happen to a sick family member……no!. So I say who ever allowed it to happen should go as the DJ’s on air last night demonstrated they had no idea what the process is.

  34. Anonymous
    11 Dec 12
    3:04 pm

  35. Rather than attacking 2DayFM – maybe we should also have a good look at how the British media handled this prank phone call! They are the ones who sensationalised it in the UK and they are the ones who vilified the nurses and the Hospital for allowng the calls to go through.

    My question back to everyone that has negatively commented on 2DayFM and this prank call is:

    “Did you take offence to the prank call in the first instance?” If not then you are all hypocrits because the same principles apply here with or without the the unfortunate death of this pooor woman.

  36. amf
    11 Dec 12
    3:15 pm

  37. Yep sure did Anonymous. Don’t think I’d be too happy with prank calls to my 85 year old mother either, or a 10 year old child or me, an adult woman…..

    Think prank calls are idiotic and reckon that they are the domain of Jackass adolescents! As advertisers we shouldn’t support cheap trick ‘entertainment’ by dickheads…. (sorry moderator, but it really has to be called!)

  38. Catalyst
    11 Dec 12
    3:23 pm

  39. cat·a·lyst
    Noun: A person or thing that precipitates an event.
    Synonyms: accelerator

    Why isn’t the hospital looking at her work environment to understand the true cause of her depression?
    If the standard reaction to a prank call was suicide – surely we’d have seen a few more cases on our hands by now;
    There was at LEAST 1 radio show per week conducting a prank call going back to when I used to get a lift to school from my parents. She obviously had other things going on in her life. Do we blame the DJs who made a reasonably innocent prank call – or do we blame the hospital for having an emotionally volatile worker on shift?

    Is removing the DJs/Holleran really going to stop this from happening again in the future? or is reviewing/changing the hospitals work environment going to produce a better outcome?

  40. Justice
    11 Dec 12
    3:43 pm

  41. This is beyond shocking.
    A nurse dead and families lives ruined, two DJ’s have to wake up every day of their lives to be reminded of this, and this station has form and many other victims.
    Action now.

  42. Spindoctor
    11 Dec 12
    4:24 pm

  43. Forget about resignations and sackings. Maybe it’s time for ACMA to show some backbone and actually hand out a harsh penalty to this station, given its less than enviable record over the years including Sandilands’s ongoing awful, cringe=creating comments and abuse and now this. The two young people presenting the show were only doing what they’d been told to do – follow station policy and get some laughs by making someone look an idiot. Forget the niceties and the law. Just do it, guys. If ACMA follows its usual course I have a couple of large peacock feathers they can use to whip the station with.

  44. Roz
    11 Dec 12
    4:32 pm

  45. “Anonymous”…have you been hiding under a rock this past year? Have you not heard of Sack Vile Kyle and all the other social media action groups who FOR ONE LONG YEAR now have been complaining loudly to anyone who would listen…(obviously not to you …although there was someone on MumBrella self-named as “Anonymous” who suggested I “get a life” every time I complained about 2DayFM’s disgusting DJs). Did you not hear us complaining, saying how disgusting the daily actions on 2DayFM were? Did you not hear of the Petition signed by thousands; the pleas to advertisers to stop supporting this horrid programme? Where have you been?

  46. Andyroo
    11 Dec 12
    5:04 pm

  47. The blame for this suicide lies primarily with the woman who took her own life. What a selfish and mindless act for a wife and mother to leave her family heartbroken, her husband widowed and most tragically of all her children motherless .. and for what? A silly prank that would have all been forgotten in a week! Life will always throw little problems at the feet of all of us .. She would have, understandably, been embarrassed by falling for the silly prank and the resulting unprofessional failure of her nursing college to maintain medical confidentiality. Whether the blame for this lies with the individual nurses or the administrators of the hospital depends apon what training the nurses were provided to deal with the INEVITABLE media interest involved with having royalty at the hospital. For the hospital to not have procedures in place to maintain security and confidentiality of royal patients ..or any other patients .. is negligent and unfathomable. What reasonable person could envisage that a call of this nature would get past the first receptionist at the hospital ?? If blame for the families anguish lies anywhere, it lies firstly with the cowardly nurse who took her own life, secondly with the hospital, and thirdly with the British media who ( initially) castigated the nurses for there breach of confidentiality. The Australian radio station must shoulder some responsibility but not the DJs who are minor pawns in this scenario which has played out innumerable times in the past without consequence. To publicly broadcast a phone conversation without the persons consent may be in breach of the law (I’m unsure of the legalities here), however I am certain that suicide is illegal .. It’s time society and the media accepted that individuals need to take responsibility for there own actions . . why kill yourself over something so petty?

  48. David
    11 Dec 12
    11:22 pm

  49. Tim, your last opinion piece on this was good.

    This one, not so.

  50. Bernard
    12 Dec 12
    9:03 am

  51. Nurses don’t kill themselves because of crank calls.their working conditions ,pay and mostly top down bullying are the reasons for the pitiful record of self destruction in this profession .
    The pululating middle management of the hospital must have thought it was an early Xmas!
    Publicity,high moral outrage and a boot for the crass colonials.!And no examination of the undoubtedly long history of conflict and workplace oppression.
    For me the ‘blame’ lays with health middle management and shallow journalists, but they are just doing their jobs as the market demands.

  52. @ Andyroo
    12 Dec 12
    9:13 am

  53. You opened your statement with the premise that suicide is selfish, is disgusting.

    You should rethink that thought process before you actually meet someone with depression, which is pretty likely these days.

    Suicide is terrible but to say it’s selfish is a disgrace and insult to the person, their situation and call them cowardly, well Andyroo, feel free to share your real name.

    You do know it’s the NUMBER 1 killer of MEN 16 – 28 in Australia.

    I’ll say that again to make sure you hear it correctly.

    NUMBER 1.

    More than alcohol, more than cars more than cigarettes.

    Show some respect.

  54. Stephen Hale
    12 Dec 12
    9:15 am

  55. Hey AndyRoo. Next time your mum goes to hospital i’ll have a film crew go around for a interview about her sex life unannounced. according to your rules that is all fair game. You advocate no rules media and i say that without standards you poor industry. they called an institution full of sick people and carers…..for what? cheap laughs. Perhaps you should go work in Lebanon they have no rules for media there!! heads need to role and advertisers should avoid the station.

  56. Geoff
    12 Dec 12
    9:40 am

  57. ANDYROO What rubbish. Why don’t you use your real name you gutless coward.

  58. Carol
    12 Dec 12
    10:54 am

  59. ANDYROO how could you be so heartless?

  60. @ @AndyRoo's Haters
    12 Dec 12
    12:08 pm

  61. As someone whose had a member of their family commit suicide;

    It is selfish and cowardly.

    Yes, depression is an illness, but suicide is a choice.
    It’s selfish to think your life is yours only – especially when you commit yourself to another person in marriage, and to support life in children.
    Life IS essentially ups & downs – our character is determined by how we deal with what life throws at us. To commit suicide is to take the easy way out.
    To make a decision, by yourself, that affects those around you so negatively and suddenly – is selfish. What other name is there for it?

  62. @ Androo here again....
    12 Dec 12
    1:01 pm

  63. 12:08pm,

    I could tee off, but I won’t.

    I’m not a doctor, but get professional medical help as soon as possible.

    You are terribly misguided and need a professional to help you.

  64. Craig
    12 Dec 12
    9:37 pm

  65. I think the management of 2DayFM and Austereo really don’t understand what the fuss was about. Resigning would not even cross their mind – though hanging the DJs out to dry clearly did.

  66. Wendles
    13 Dec 12
    2:06 am

  67. I think andyroo has a point and also comment # 31. However unfortunate the circumstances she was in, was suicide the best option? She has left her children motherless & her husband a widow. I’m not sure if andyroo needs professional medical help (#32), but what I am certain of is that she needed it. Perhaps she would be here today if she had sought it? Its sad that she committed suicide, most people would agree with that. Everyone is asking who is responsible – who killed her? Was it the media? Was it the 2 Australian DJs? Was it the hospital administration? Was it the royal family by golly gosh? Well, none of these killed her – unfortunately she killed herself. It sounds harsh yes – but it’s the truth. There’s no murder investigation here, just a social investigation and a lot of blame throwing. If someone was really responsible, other than herself, it would be a homicide investigation. Is there a homicide investigation going on – am I missing something here?

  68. Andyroo
    13 Dec 12
    8:16 pm

  69. Tims article is about responsibility. The radio station is responsible for broadcasting the prank, the hospital is responsible for the breach of confidentiality and the nurse is responsible for her own suicide.

    #27 (no name) – Those people who have to deal with the consequences of a persons suicide agree that it is a selfish act .. see #31. My name is Andrew, just in case you couldn’t work that out for yourself … What’s your name ? The discussion is about this nurse .. She’s not male, she’s not aged 16-28 and she’s not in Australia . . What’s your point? Respect needs to be earn’t . . Did the nurse show respect to her now grieving family?

    #28 Stephen. I don’t advocate no rules media . I advocate taking responsibility for ones own actions. If one or both of the DJs were to kill themselves over the intense reaction to their prank ( not too far fetched a proposition) who would be responsible? The pressure they are under is significantly more than the nurse would have been. The DJs put the nurse under pressure by pranking her and she erred by putting the call through rather than hang up on them . . Her response was suicide. The DJs erred by pulling the prank. So if one of them were to commit suicide, would all of you pressuring them with your laying of blame take responsibility for the death? I’m guessing not .. They probably “deserved it”. The CHOICE to commit suicide would be theirs. Are the people pressuring the DJs responsible for their (hypothetical) decision to kill themselves?

    # 29 “Geoff”. My name is Andrew … Just in case the nickname wasn’t clue enough.

    # 30 Carol. I’m offering my opinion. It isn’t directly harming anyone. The nurses “heartless” suicide has caused untold pain to her children, husband and family. Who is the more heartless here.

    #31. As one with first hand experience with situation . . Thank you for you input. I’m sorry for your pain.

    #32. I suggest thst the nurse should have sought professional help rather than make her family suffer for the rest of there lives. Her choice though.

    #34 Wendles. Couldn’t agree more. It’s about making choices and taking responsibility for those choices. The radio station chose to air the prank and are responsible for any legal consequences of that choice; fine them, take them off air , whatever the law says. The nurse chose to kill herself and is responsible for her family’s suffering.

  70. Steph
    14 Dec 12
    8:09 am

  71. The media are relentless. When will they finally realise what they publish is one of the most powerful vehicles for social change on the planet – the sooner they start posting more good the better! It’s shouldn’t always be about negativity to drive ad sales!!!!

  72. Bec listens to 2dayfm
    14 Dec 12
    1:35 pm

  73. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that this prank has got so much media attention. This has been happening for years, people always do this whether it be on air or off. Everyone is becoming too precious. The lady (may she RIP), was obviously severly depressed in other ways. A prank call was not the cause of her death, it may have attributed, but should we place everyone in cotton wool and never do anything out there or ridiculous.

    Everyone needs to clam down.. take a look at the bigger picture and make up their own minds about this rather than following the media and their rants from the UK.

  74. Wendles
    14 Dec 12
    2:46 pm

  75. Well said @ Steph & @ Bec. Today also it appears she left 3 suicide notes – one berates her employers. Sometimes we wonder what the media does not publish

  76. Meg
    16 Dec 12
    8:57 am

  77. There is no doubt that the reasons people commit suicide are complex. Yes, to those left behind it seems selfish, so people who do suicide must be feeling incredibly desparate to take this step. I suggest everyone pointing fingers elsewhere should take a moment to imagine what it must be like to honestly feel that your loved ones would be better off without you. rather than an act of selfishness, suicide may be a sick oerson’s idea of the best solution for everyone. then imagine all the steps and tragic circumstances that would lead to you feeling that way. I agree, one prank is not going to cause a suicide, but one prank obviously did spark the final action of a very vulnerable person. To try to deny the culpability of media bullies (pranks are bullying!) by pointing the finger at all the other contributing factors is a weak cop out. The lesson should be “don’t kick people EVER because you don’t know if they are already down”.

  78. Meg
    16 Dec 12
    9:07 am

  79. @wendles. Maybe there should be a homicide investigation. If someone threw a punch in a pub fight that killed someone because they had an unknown heart condition, then the answer would be “yes”. So why is it that bullying someone, with a hidden mental illness, any less worthy of prosecution? Mental illness is real, bullying is bullying whether physical or verbal.

  80. Wendles
    17 Dec 12
    5:55 pm

  81. @ meg, nice words. I agree that you do not kick someone when they are down and that it takes a totally desperate wave-length of thought to commit suicide – its desperation in the extreme & one cannot focus on the ramifications of their actions at the time – I do agree. But, she did berate the staff at the hospital in one of her suicide notes – its likely they kicked her when she was down thus? She also berated the callers. I’m sure if they had any inclination of the consequences I doubt they (the djs or hospital staff) would have said or done anything to provoke her. Or do you think they would? You saying that maybe there should be a homicide investigation is negligent, because it can’t happen with a suicide. There isnt a homicide. Plus relating this to à pub fight & a resulting death is actually talking about homicide so it doesn’t really count either – sorry – but true. Just too many differing variables to compare the two. I do hope Jacinta will RIP :(

  82. faceless executives
    18 Dec 12
    6:54 am

  83. most people in ad land know the executives probably involved in granting approval to run the segment against the code no doubt.Why are these people not fronting up and copping the responsibilty for their actions.Maybe losing 7 figure salaries is too much for them compared to a lost life

  84. John Hollands
    18 Dec 12
    10:00 am

  85. the thing nobody has – I think – twigged about this prank is that it inevitably was never intended to get actual information nor to speak to the patient.

    I have no doubt that what was anticipated was a silly, hopefully funny, argument with someone at the hospital refusing to connect the call. All the time with the high-pitched voice of “the Queen”. “Young lady, I am the Queen…” And the yap of the corgi.

    Nobody would anticipate being put through. Compare with Guido’s calls – he would say how important he was and how he must be put through.

    The best they might have hoped for would be a smug, imperious block.

  86. Kate
    18 Dec 12
    10:32 am

  87. John Hollands – Well perhaps that is true. But the phone call went the way it did. They hung up, according to reports, it was then passed by the legal team and then it was the relevant management folk who decide that it should be aired.

  88. Kate
    18 Dec 12
    10:44 am

  89. It was not a live prank. It was pre-recorded.

  90. Meg
    18 Dec 12
    12:13 pm

  91. @ ‘Wendles. you are right, not homicide, but worthy of investigation. The paralell I was trying to draw with the pub fight scenario, is that once you do something harmful to someone (a punch, a prank) you don’t know what the ultimate ramifications of that action will be. People don’t usually expect to kill someone with a punch, just hurt them. People don’t intend to kill someone with a prank, just embarrass them. Avoiding committing the lesser abuse will guarantee no-one is going to suffer extreme harm. If you deliberately tease, humiliate, or punch someone then that should be prosecuted under an appropriate charge. And yes, everyone involved including the hospital management has to answer for their actions. very sad for everyone involved, I also feel for the DJs who have been made the fall guys in this. Their station management is ultimately responsible, because the real abuse here was in airing something without the woman’s permission. she was not in on the joke, a joke that was at her expense. that’s public humiliation and it’s bullying.

  92. Meg
    18 Dec 12
    12:17 pm

  93. …and it exists throughout our culture, not just in media, as an acceptable form of ‘larrikinism’. Cultural change is needed. there really is no one individual to blame here, its a cultural problem. we all need to change this and call it when we see it.