Australian radio station’s royal hoax call broke the law

Australia’s High Court has upheld a ruling that a radio station broke the law by airing a hoax call to a hospital which was treating the Duchess of Cambridge for morning sickness, the BBC reports.

DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian made international headlines in 2012 when a nurse who fell for their prank later killed herself.

The High Court overturned a previous decision which cleared 2Day FM.

The station could now be fined or see its license suspended or revoked.

2Day FM said Wednesday’s decision “means that there is a serious defect in Australian broadcasting law”.

The High Court ruling upheld an earlier finding by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that the station broke the law by not obtaining consent to air the call from either of the hospital staff featured.

Ms Greig and Mr Christian called King Edward VII’s Hospital in London on December 2012 pretending to be the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Nurse Jacintha Saldana, 46, answered the call and transferred it to a colleague, who gave details of the duchess’s condition. Following widespread media coverage Mrs Saldanha was found hanged three days later.

ACMA had ruled in November 2013, nearly a year after the prank took place, that the radio station had broken the law by broadcasting the call.

But the station successfully sued the ACMA in the Federal Court, arguing that the media watchdog did not have the authority to decide whether a criminal offence had been committed and overturned its decision.

Wednesday’s High Court ruling reverses that Federal Court decision, finding that the ACMA does have that power. The authority can now decide whether to issue a penalty to the station of a fine or suspension of licence.

In February 2013, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said there was no evidence to support a charge of manslaughter against the two DJs.

At an inquest into Mrs Saldana’s death, Coroner Fiona Wilcox concluded that the hoax call had been “clearly pressing on her mind” but that she had had “appropriate” support from the hospital.

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