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I'm sick and tired of the abuse journalists are getting at the moment. They don't deserve it, at least real journalists don't - ...

04 March 2015

Regulators Have Teeth. So Bite.

I'm delighted that Australia's High Court has upheld a contested ruling that the radio station responsible for a stupid prank call to a hospital nurse in London in the middle of the night broke the law.

The judgement overturns an earlier decision which ruled the regulator had no power to sanction Sydney's 2Day FM over the harrassment of the nurse, who was bullied by two presenters who posed as members of the Royal family to trick her into transferring their hoax call to members of the medical team treating the Duchess of Cambridge for morning sickness in 2012.

The time has now come to punish the station appropriately.

The nurse who fell for the prank - Jacintha Saldanha - later killed herself. A coroner at her inquest found that the incident was "clearly pressing on her mind" when she committed suicide. I've written at length about the incident before - Not Big. Not Clever. Not Funny - and that post attracted a number of passionate responses.

One of the presenters who perpetrated the hoax - Mel Greig - has spoken of her regret for what happened, but also whilst addressing last year's Radio Academy Festival in Salford blamed the hospital for not having systems in place to stop such hoax calls getting through. Sorry .. but not sorry, it was their fault.

Her former employers, Southern Cross Austereo who own 2Day FM, could now face fines, or could see the station's licence suspended or revoked by the Australian Communications and Media Authority - the Aussie equivalent of the UK's OFCOM. 

The owners are already wriggling on the hook, telling the BBC that the court decision "means that there is a serious defect in Australian broadcasting law". They've already fought the regulator in lower courts and it seems unlikely they will give in quietly now without further legal challenges.

It's time for the regulator to bare its teeth. 

Taking 2DayFM's licence, or at the very least taking it off air for a period, would send a signal to the whole industry that the "little people" like Jacintha, on the end of a phone in the early hours of the morning at the other side of the planet, are not there to be used like tissues by big egos in search of a victim to amuse their audiences - who collude in the bullying as surely as those who stand by cheering during a playground fight. 

Remember, it wasn't a momentary slip up live on air - the hoax call was pre-recorded and discussed before it was aired. The harm was premeditated. They thought they could use a victim half a world a way to drive ratings with a "scoop." When the negative publicity started, the station let the DJs take the rap by firing them. When legal action started, the station battled tooth and nail.

They lost. Let them now feel the consequences - and let's see regulators the world over standing up to crass and offensive stunts on air which tarnish the whole radio industry.

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