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Australian radio station could face criminal charges for prank call

2DayFM Australian disc jockeys Mel Greig (left) and Michael Christian (right) are seen in this undated file photo. The two decided to go off the air after making a prank call to Kate Middleton's hospital. A nurse duped in the prank call later died in an apparent suicide.

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Australian radio station behind a prank phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge's hospital could face criminal charges for airing the conversation, according to legal experts.

A few days after the prank, nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who put the call through to the duchess' ward, died of an apparent suicide. 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 were able to get confidential information about the former Kate Middleton's health condition. The duchess was admitted for severe morning sickness.

When it comes to a potential criminal case, the focus is on whether a private conversation was broadcast without the permission of the participants. Experts say violators could be sentenced to prison. It's unclear who at radio station 2DayFM or its parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, made the decision to air the call.

Austereo has repeatedly insisted that it followed the law. The company said in a statement Monday that the segment underwent an internal legal review before it was broadcast.

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 the radio station. Media law expert Mark Pearson said that even if the station had tried to contact the hospital, that isn't enough under the law.

Grieg and Christian tearfully apologized for the prank in televised interviews Monday. Austereo has also apologized and said it would donate at least $525,000 to the Saldanha family.

Meantime, the duchess has canceled a planned appearance at the London premiere of "The Hobbit" due to her morning sickness. Palace officials say she will continue to rest privately rather than go to the show Wednesday night. Her husband, Prince William, still plans to attend the premiere. The duchess has canceled all public engagements since her brief hospitalization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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