Royal Hoax: Australian Radio Station to Donate $500K to Nurse's Family

Radio pranking under pressure to reform after royal hoax, apparent suicide.

ByABC News
December 11, 2012, 6:14 AM

Dec. 11, 2012 — -- The Australian radio station that employed the DJs who prank-called the London hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated has cancelled their show and will donate at least $500,000 to the grieving husband and children of the nurse who took the call and later apparently killed herself.

Australia's 2Day FM released a statement today saying it hopes to "help [Jacintha] Saldanha's family with the support they need at this very difficult time."

After days of suspended advertising, the radio station at the center of a global firestorm announced it will resume airing commercials Thursday. All its profits for the rest of the year will go directly to the family of the unsuspecting nurse at the center of that joke.

The Sydney-based station also issued a company-wide suspension of prank calls after the nurse who initially answered the hospital call was found dead.

Saldanha's husband and two teenage children met with officials at the hospital Monday, and spoke publicly for the first time, although via a member of the British Parliament.

"This is a close family," Keith Vaz said. "They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day.

Although radio pranks have been a staple of shock DJs for years, DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australia's 2Day FM might have crossed the line last week when they pranked the hospital, prompting the question of whether this is the end for radio pranking.

"Entertainers try to use real-life everyday circumstances and try to find humor in them," Radio DJ J Niice of B96 in Chicago, who does regular pranks on his show, told ABC News.

DJ Niice says his station has no intentions of pulling the plug on prank calls because it doesn't need to.

Based on U.S. law, such calls only become problematic when any resulting damage or injury could have been foreseen.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was famously pranked while running for vice president by a notorious Montreal-based comedy duo, who pretended to be then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"You know, I see you as a president one day," one of them told Palin, to which she replied with a giggle, "Maybe in eight years.'"

A prank caller even managed to make his way through security to speak to Tony Blair while he was still British prime minister. But it was no laughing matter in 1998 when Opie and Anthony, DJs from a Boston radio station, were fired for telling listeners on April Fools' Day that the city's mayor had died in a car accident.

While the Australian DJs' show has been terminated, it's still unclear whether they will be.

They could face criminal charges if police determine their call was illegally recorded. And the same joke at which they initially laughed is now the reason for their tears.