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Radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian called London's King Edward VII Hospital last week. Pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, they asked for word on the Duchess of Cambridge, who had been suffering from severe morning sickness. Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who answered the phone, put them through to the ward, and the duo received confidential information on the duchess' condition that was later aired.
The radio station trumpeted the prank call until Friday, when Saldanha was found dead. Police have not disclosed the cause of Saldanha's death, but many have assumed it was related to the stress from the call. An autopsy was to be held Tuesday.
Grieg and Christian tearfully apologized for the prank in televised interviews Monday, after days of condemnation in countless Internet posts around the world.
Southern Cross Austereo also has apologized, but it has repeatedly insisted it followed the law. The company said in a statement Monday that the segment underwent an internal legal review before it was broadcast.
The company "does not consider that the broadcast of the segment has breached any relevant law, regulation or code,'' Austereo said, adding it would cooperate with any investigation.
On Monday, Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran said 2DayFM had tried five times, without success, to contact the London hospital to discuss the prank before it aired. The King Edward VII Hospital denied its management had been contacted by 2DayFM.
Media law expert Mark Pearson said that even if the station had tried to contact the hospital, that isn't enough under the law. He said permission must be granted by the person involved.
If the case went to court, it is possible that a judge could decide that an attempt at getting permission was sufficient, but only if the lawyers could prove that any ``reasonable person'' would agree that enough was done, said Pearson, a journalism professor at Bond University in Queensland state. He considered such a ruling to be a longshot.
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