Media watchdog wins legal battle over suppressed Today’s Hit Network nurse prank call report

Greig Christian

Christian and Grieg

The High Court has given the green light to media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to publish a controversial report into the prank call by two Today’s Hit Network DJs which led to the suicide of a British nurse.

Today’s unanimous ruling could allow the ACMA to take the Southern Cross Austereo station off-air as punishment for broadcasting the December 2012 prank call which saw hosts Mel Greig and Michael ‘MC’ Christian, who were impersonating Prince Charles and The Queen, put through to the ward where the then pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness.

Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who put the call through to the ward, took her own life days later.

Today’s decision comes six months after the ACMA was given leave to appeal a Federal Court decision that the media authority had overstepped its powers acting as “accuser and fact finder” in creating the report, which is believed to state the station breached the NSW Surveillance Devices Act by airing the secretly recorded call without seeking permission from the nurse or hospital.

That offence would mean the station breached its radio broadcast licence conditions, opening it up to a number of potential punishments by the ACMA including the licence being suspended or cancelled, the imposition of enforceable undertakings to force future compliance, or further licence conditions.

Related content:

The court’s decision found that “the Authority does have power to make an administrative determination that a licensee has committed a criminal offence as a preliminary to taking enforcement action under the BSA, notwithstanding that there has been no finding by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction that the offence has been proven.

“This is because, in making such a determination, the Authority is not adjudging and punishing criminal guilt. The Court also held that, in making a determination, the Authority is not exercising judicial power.”

Comment is being sought from both the ACMA and Southern Cross Austereo (SXL).

Legal action in the case has been ongoing since 2013 when 2DayFM’s applied to block the ACMA from investigating the radio prank and releasing its preliminary report into the court case.

The court ruled that the ACMA would be awarded costs in the case.

Nic Christensen 

Related coverage:


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.