The Australian radio program at the center of a royal prank call gone awry has been officially canceled.
The Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday that “Hot 30 Countdown,” the show hosted by Mel Greig and Michael Christian, was replaced by a different nightly program hosted by a different deejay. “Hot 30 Countdown” was taken off the air in December soon after Greig and Christian called London’s King Edward VII Hospital, where the pregnant Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton, was being treated for severe morning sickness. The hosts put on a phony English accent and pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. Much to their surprise, the nurse on duty, Jacintha Saldanha, put them through to a nurse who provided details about Middleton’s condition.
The prank sparked an international backlash after Saldanha turned up dead of an apparent suicide. The nurse’s family said she was humiliated by the high-profile incident. Since the controversy unfolded, a music-based show without a deejay had been playing in “Hot 30’s” timeslot. Southern Cross Austereo, the parent company of the radio station that aired the hoax, announced on “Hot 30’s” Facebook page Saturday that a new show, “The Bump,” is launching soon. The new show is hosted by a deejay named Angus, who also made an announcement.
But don’t count the pranksters out yet. In a statement last week, Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, said the hosts have not been fired but are on leave, and that they may soon return to the station. “We look forward to [Greig and Christian] returning to work when the time is right, in roles that make full use of their talents. We will discuss future roles with them when they are ready.”
Some legal experts have sounded off on the legality of the hoax, suggesting that the radio hosts may have broken privacy laws, including a provision in the UK’s Data Protection Act that prohibits anyone from obtaining or disclosing personal records. Penalties would include a fine of up to $6,464 each. The radio station 2Day FM, which aired the hoax, could also be held liable for airing the segment without the nurse’s permission.
In late December, the deputy police commissioner in New South Wales told the Daily Telegraph in Sydney that he believed that the DJs would not be prosecuted by Scotland Yard. The police official based his belief on the fact that British authorities have not asked for further information on the incident, nor have they asked to question the duo.
Both hosts expressed extreme remorse over Saldanha’s suicide when they were interviewed on Australian TV. They have not appeared publicly since.
Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara