Australian radio dumps royal hoax show

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Reuters

Sydney-based 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian (L) and Mel Greig speak during an interview with Seven Network's current affairs program Today Tonight in Sydney in this still image taken from video.

Sydney -

An Australian radio show at the centre of a hoax call controversy involving Britain's Prince William and his pregnant wife Catherine has been taken off air permanently, the network said on Monday.

Two DJs were sidelined by the Austereo network after making the prank call to the London hospital treating the duchess of Cambridge, which resulted in details of her recovery from morning sickness being revealed on air.

The Indian-born nurse who transferred the call to Kate Middleton's ward, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead three days later, triggering a massive backlash against Austereo and hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

The pair received death threats over the call, in which they posed as Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles.

They were taken off air and their show “Hot 30” was suspended. Austereo confirmed that it was launching a new programme called “The Bump” later Monday to take its place permanently.

But an Austereo spokeswoman told AFP: “Mel and MC are still employed and on leave.”

Austereo chief executive Rhys Holleran said the network remained in contact with the two hosts.

“We look forward to Mel and MC returning to work when the time is right, in roles that make full use of their talents,” he said.

“We will discuss future roles with them when they are ready.”

Austereo suspended prank calls by its stations and pledged at least Aus$500 000 (US$520 000) to help Saldhana's grieving family. Greig and Christian also made a tearful televised apology.

An inquest heard that Saldanha was found hanged in staff accommodation at the private King Edward VII's Hospital in central London and there were no suspicious circumstances over her death. She also had marks on her wrist.

Saldanha left three notes, one of which reportedly criticised colleagues over her treatment at the hospital.

Australia's media watchdog has opened an investigation into the call. Scotland Yard also investigated the affair but according to Australian police, Greig and Christian are unlikely to face prosecution. - Sapa-AFP


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