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Sydney - Australia's leading advertisers Saturday fled the Sydney radio station whose prank call to a London hospital asking after the health of the duchess of Cambridge has been connected to the death of a nurse.
Jacintha Saldanha, who transferred the call from 2Day FM to a duty nurse, was found dead Friday with suicide a possible cause.
Supermarket chain Coles pulled its advertising, saying in a statement that “Australians are clearly angry and upset by what appear to be tragic consequences of the 2Day FM UK hospital prank.”
More than seven hours after the death of the 46-year-old mother of two, the station's website was still playing footage celebrating what it claimed was the “Biggest Royal Prank Ever.”
Other advertisers followed Coles in response to widespread public concern over the circumstances of Saldanha's death.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the incident as a “terrible tragedy” while Communications Minister Stephen Conroy urged watchdog body the Australian Communications and Media Authority “to investigate the call for possible breaches of the commercial radio codes.”
Protocol dictates that the authority only investigates after a complainant registers dissatisfaction with the response to the initial complaint.
Authority chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement: “The ACMA does not propose to make any comments at this stage, but will be engaging with the licensee, Today FM Sydney (2Day FM), around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call.”
2Day FM owner Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), after earlier delighting in the success of its prank, said presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian had been suspended.
SCA chief Rhys Holleran said in a statement that “they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances.”
Jeff Kennett, the high-profile head of national depression counselling service beyondblue, urged Australians to rally round the besieged pair.
“When they did this they had no intention to cause harm - it was a harmless prank,” Kennett told national broadcaster ABC, urging their employer to ensure they received “the professional support to help them get through what will be a terrible few weeks.” - Sapa-dpa