Kate Middleton Prank Call: Radio Station Loses Court Battle
The Federal Court ruled that the Australian media watchdog is within its powers to find a breach of license by station 2DayFM in an ongoing investigation.
SYDNEY -- The Federal Court of Australia has found that broadcast regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority can determine whether radio station 2DayFM breached its licenses condition or committed a criminal offense when it aired what has become known as the Royal prank call last December. The call was followed by the suicide of British nurse Jacintha Saldhana several days later.
2DayFM owner Southern Cross Austereo had asked the court to find that ACMA was overreaching its powers if it determined a breach of 2DayFM’s license. Instead SCA argued the courts, rather than broadcast regulator, should determine if any local laws had been broken.
In December 2012, 2Day FM dj’s Michael Christian and Mel Greig called the hospital where Kate Middleton was staying while suffering from morning sickness. During the on-air call, the duo pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William's father Prince Charles. British nurse Jacintha Saldanha took the call and fell for the ruse, passing the phone to a colleague who divulged information regarding Middleton’s condition. The prank made global headlines and Saldanha died of an apparent suicide several days later.
"The ACMA welcomes this decision," said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. "It provides clarity over the operation of the license condition that prohibits broadcasters from using their broadcasting service in the commission of an offense. The Federal Court confirmed that the ACMA has the power to form an opinion as to whether a broadcaster has breached the license condition, independently of any conviction for a criminal offense."
ACMA is now set to finalize its investigation. It has already completed a preliminary report, which has not been made public. Justice Edmonds said a non-publish order would remain in place for 14 days while 2DayFM considers its options.
Southern Cross Austereo said in a statement, “We are reviewing the judgement and considering our position. There will be no further comment at this time”.
In July, UK police referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police who are believed to still be investigating the matter.
In a hearing last September, lawyers for 2Day FM argued if ACMA were to make a criminal finding against the station, it could interfere with the course of justice and would do "enormous damage" to the station.