Although the Today Network’s Royal prank call was broadcast nationally, only Sydney station 2Day FM potentially faces sanctions because of the way the licensing regime works, Mumbrella can reveal.
The Summer 30 was produced from the Sydney studios of Southern Cross Austereo’s 2Day FM. It was broadcast across the Today Network, including Fox FM in Melbourne, 92.9 in Perth, B105 in Brisbane and SAFM in Adelaide, along with stations in Southern Cross Austereo’s regional network.
On Wednesday night, the show broadcast a prank call carried out by Michael ‘MC’ Christian and Mel Greig. 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. Over the weekend, it emerged that the nurse who put the call though appeared to have taken her own life.
Australia’s commercial radio industry runs through co-regulation – the industry draws up its own codes of practice which are approved by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Complaints from the public are initially handled by the radio stations themselves, and only go on to ACMA 60 days later if the complainant is unhappy with the outcome. However, ACMA does have the right to launch its own investigation earlier if it wishes. It may also draw up its own program standards if it believes that the codes are not providing sufficient public protection.
The Today Network carries a mixture of local and national content. Breakfast shows are local, while the drivetime show hosted by Fifi Box and Jules Lund comes out of Melbourne. Take 40 Australia comes from Sydney. The Summer 30, featuring stand-ins Christian and Greig, also came from Sydney.
A spokesman for ACMA today told Mumbrella that the national show would be treated as having been syndicated from Sydney, meaning that any conversations would only be in regard to SCA’s ownership of the licence for 2Day FM.
SCA appears to be taking a similar approach to quarantine the backlash to 2Day FM only. Although it has pulled ads from the station – there have been none since the weekend – it has not taken the same approach in other cities.
The apparent gap – which means that a listener outside Sydney who complained about hearing it on their local station would still have their complaint focus on the Sydney broadcast – is the latest to emerge from the current code of practice.
The code only covers news and current affairs programs when it comes to protecting privacy. And the rules about broadcasting an “identifiable” person’s voice without permission may not apply when they are overseas. The Today Network has insisted that it did not break any of the rules.
Update: A spokesman for ACMA told Mumbrella: “Any licensee who broadcast the segment could potentially be the subject of an investigation. The licensee we investigate typically reflects the particular broadcast complained of by complainants.”