2DayFM goes to court in bid to prevent ACMA investigation which could see it lose its licence

michael christian mel greig

Christian and Greig

Sydney radio station 2DayFM has made an application to the Federal Court to stop the media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority from continuing its investigation into last year’s “royal prank call” incident.

The move came after the ACMA told 2DayFM what its preliminary findings were. The dramatic move suggests that 2Day FM is in serious danger of losing its licence to broadcast.

According to a statement from ACMA, the authority issued its preliminary findings on the incident to 2DayFM on Tuesday.

ACMA has revealed that one of the things it was considering was whether a condition of the licence that a broadcasting service must not be used “in the commission of an offence” had been breached.

Whereas when normal radio codes are breached, ACMA effectively only has the power to issue a finding or add new conditions to a licence, if an existing licence condition is breached, ACMA has the sanction of suspending or cancelling a radio licence. The move – which would cost owner Southern Cross Austereo millions – has never previously occurred.

In response 2DayFM applied to the Federal Court for orders restraining the ACMA from continuing the investigation and making such a finding of a breach.

In December 2012 ACMA began an investigation of the radio station after hosts Mel Greig and Michael ‘MC’ Christian broadcast a prank call in which they impersonated Prince Charles and The Queen and tricked a nurse on the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness to give out confidential information about her condition.

In the wake of the media controversy that followed  the nurse who put the call Jacintha Saldanha took her own life.

In the statement issued by ACMA today the watchdog said it was considering: “(among other matters) whether, in broadcasting that telephone call, Today FM breached the condition of its licence that a licensee must not use its broadcasting service in the commission of an offence (clause 8(1)(g) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992). In particular, the ACMA is considering whether Today FM breached clause 8(1)(g) of Schedule 2 by broadcasting, in contravention of section 11(1) of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW), a recording of the telephone call.”

ACMA said intends to contest 2DayFM’s Federal Court application. The date of the hearing is yet to be announced.

SCA issued the following statement:

“Today FM has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court which seek to prevent the ACMA making any finding that Today FM has breached a condition of its broadcasting licence. Today FM considers that the ACMA has no power to make such a finding. The ACMA has no power to investigate whether the recording of a telephone call breaches State or Federal laws and the agencies which do have that power have not conducted an investigation or sought any information from Today FM. Today FM also considers that the recording of the prank call did not breach any law.

“As the issue of the power of the ACMA to make a finding of a licence condition breach will now be decided by the Federal Court Today FM will not make any further comment.”

Nic Christensen


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