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Sydney station attempted to contact nurses
Sydney station attempted to contact nurses

Sydney radio station 2Day FM tried to contact London nurses involved in a royal prank at least five times before the pre-recorded interview went to air, the station's owner says.

Last week two of the station's presenters aired a stunt in which they called London's King Edward VII's Hospital posing as the Queen and Prince Charles and got information about Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine.

The nurse who answered the phone, 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha, was later found dead in an apparent suicide.

This morning Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, again defended its staff, saying presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian followed proper procedures.

"It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people [the nurses] on multiple occasions," chief executive Rhys Holleran told radio station 3AW.

"We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded.

"Before it went to air? Absolutely, we attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions."

The prank, and the death of Ms Saldanha, have sparked a furious international backlash against the radio station.

The royal family has not made an official complaint over the privacy breach, but the hospital's chairman Lord Simon Glenarthur wrote to Austereo at the weekend to condemn what he called the "humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses".

Indian-born mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, is thought to have taken her own life. Photo: Supplied

"King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call," he wrote.

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling."

Yesterday Southern Cross Austereo confirmed its board of directors met to discuss the growing furore over the hoax, which forced Greig and Christian off air and the station to suspend all its advertising.

Police in New South Wales have confirmed they had been contacted by the London Metropolitan Police.

"They simply wanted to touch base, raise the issues, make us aware of them," Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas said.

"It may be that they may wish to speak to someone at the station at a point down the track."

2Day FM hosts, Michael Christian and Mel Greig. Photo: Supplied

Did they break the law?

On Saturday Mr Holleran said the two presenters involved were "shattered" by Ms Saldanha's death, .

But legal opinions are divided over whether the station broke any laws or codes of conduct.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has not commented publicly on the affair, but says it will be engaging with the station around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says ACMA is considering fast-tracking its complaints process to deal with 2Day FM's prank call.

"They're in the process of gathering the information, making assessment whether to launch an inquiry without the need to go through the usual process," he said.

Police officers stand outside the King Edward VII's hospital following the death of a nurse who took a hoax call concerning the Duchess of Cambridge's treatment on December 7, 2012 in London, England. Photo: Getty

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says there is no need to look at tightening Australia's media laws just yet.

"It's a terrible tragedy for all involved. It was a prank that went horribly wrong. I think all we can do is mourn and grieve for everyone involved," he said.

"I think it's important to let the dust settle before we rush into demands for more media regulation."

A legal academic has told ABC News Breakfast that 2Day FM may have breached state laws, as well as the commercial broadcasting code.

Sydney University law professor Barbara McDonald says the radio code requires consent before conversations are broadcast, and state laws also offer protection.

"New South Wales has a surveillance devices act which says that a person mustn't record a private conversation - and a private conversation in NSW includes a conversation to which they are a party," she said.

"So you're not able to record a conversation that you're having with someone else without their consent."

A former presenter at 2Day FM, Wendy Harmer, says the presenters should have gained consent from the nurses involved to broadcast the recordings, or revealed during the call that it was a hoax.

Ms Harmer told Radio National's Breakfast program that the incident could spell the end of the tradition of prank calling.

"Radio insiders have been telling me for a long time now that they believe that 2Day FM has been skating so close to the rules and flouting the rules that they think the entire industry is going to be dragged into a new era of self-regulation," she said.

"Some of these calls even achieve sort of whistleblower status, and perhaps in revealing the lack of security around the future queen of England, I mean it could be argued that they've done just that. But obviously the results have been extremely tragic."

ABC/AFP

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