The Australian High Court ruled Wednesday that radio station 2DayFM broke the law when two of its journalists made a prank call in 2012 to a London facility asking about the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The call was made when Middleton was admitted to London’s King Edward VII Hospital for severe morning sickness.
Following the ruling, the radio station now stands to lose its license and face other penalties. The show's hosts, Michael Christian and Mel Greig, impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and her son Prince Charles during their call to the London hospital, and were connected to Nurse Jacintha Saldanha. The nurse in turn passed the call to her colleague, who described Middleton’s condition.
Saldanha was found dead in her room three days after the call was made, according to The Associated Press (AP). And an initial investigation into the incident showed that Saldanha blamed herself for transferring the call, which she believed was genuine, and had committed suicide, the Daily Express reported. The Australian Communications and Media Authority had ruled that 2DayFM had violated the law by not taking permission from the people involved, before the call was made and broadcast.
The station had appealed the decision of the Australian media watchdog, stating that the agency did not have the authority to rule on criminal breaches, The Journal, an Irish news website, reported. However, the latest decision, from the High Court, overturned a decision by a lower court to state that the watchdog had the appropriate authority.
"It is wrong for the broadcasting regulator to be able to itself decide whether a commercial television or radio broadcaster is guilty of committing an offense against any Australian state, territory or commonwealth law including laws where the ACMA has no expertise, experience or jurisdiction," 2DayFM said in a statement in response to the High Court decision, according to AP.