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Monday
Dec102012

Royal Hoax Tragedy: Australian Radio Station Cancels Show of Prankster DJs

A Current Affair/ABC News(SYDNEY) -- The Australian radio show that pulled the prank call on Kate Middleton's hospital last week has been canceled, according to a statement from Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM.

The hosts of the show, Mel Greig, 30, and Michael Christian, 25, who were responsible for the call, will not return to the airwaves until further notice, the statement said. The network also ordered a company-wide suspension of prank calls.

Southern Cross Austereo said it tried to contact the hospital several times before airing the segment. But the hospital said there were no calls.

"Following the hoax call, the radio station did not speak to anyone in hospital senior management or anyone at the company that handles our media enquiries," a spokesperson for the hospital told ABC News.

The Australian radio station has come under fire for its antics gone wrong before.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority launched an investigation into 2Day FM in July 2009 after the station broadcast a lie-detector test with a mother and a daughter regarding the girl's sexual activity, despite the girl's protests. In the segment, which was part of the Kyle and Jackie O Show, the 14-year-old girl revealed to her mother that she had been raped when she was 12, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

After the revelation, host Kyle Sandilands said, "Right ... is that the only experience you've had?"

The segment ended with host Jackie O'Neil's apologizing.

The rape allegation was investigated by police but later called off by the teenager. As a result of the investigation, however, the Kyle and Jackie O Show was suspended for three weeks.

Sandilands came under fire later that year after he said actress Magda Szubanski, who was a spokeswoman for weight-loss company Jenny Craig at the time, could lose even more weight if she went to a concentration camp, the Australian reported. Szubanski is of Polish descent. Sandilands quickly apologized for the comments.

The station was also investigated in April 2009 for a segment called "Heartless Hotline" in which a mother of five children, four of whom were disabled, called in to win tickets to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. The woman was offered seven tickets unless another listener called to claim them within 30 seconds. When another listener called in, the mother of five had to argue with hosts in order to keep the tickets.

Also that year, the station staged a prank in which it raised funds for the parents of a disabled child. The station claimed to have raised $150,000 for the family but when the parents contacted 2Day FM to claim the money, the station gave them the names of listeners who had pledged donations. The parents were only able to collect $50,000.

ABC Australia's program Media Watch recalled one of the Kyle and Jackie O Show pranks in which it told a Cambodian-Australian woman, Saveth, it would bring her niece, Dana, to Australia. But the day before the station was to fly Dana to the country, it told Saveth that it would put Dana behind one of three doors when she arrived and if Saveth didn't choose the right door, Dana would be flown home. When Saveth picked the wrong door, the women pleaded and cried until the station finally told them Dana could stay.

As for the most recent episode, the two Australian radio DJs who prank-called the London hospital where Middleton was being treated last week said they were "shattered" and "gutted" after the nurse who answered their call apparently killed herself.

Shock jocks Mel Greig, 30, and Michael Christian, 25, cried as they spoke to Australia's Channel 9 overnight in their first public interview since Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the nurse who last week connected the pair to the duchess' room, was found dead Friday morning.

"I'm shattered, gutted, heartbroken," Christian said. "Mel and myself are incredibly sorry for the situation and what's happened. I had the idea. … It was just a simple harmless phone call. It was going to go on for 30 seconds. We were going to get hung up on."

The host of the 2Day FM radio show pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, asking for an update on Middleton's condition when they called up King Edward VII Hospital in central London. With no receptionist on duty overnight, Saldanha answered the prank call and put it through.

"It was just something that was fun and light-hearted and a tragic turn of events that I don't think anyone had expected," Christian said.

Saldanha was found dead Friday morning after police were called to an address near the hospital to "reports of a woman found unconscious," according to a statement from Scotland Yard.

Investigators have not said how she might have killed herself.

Greig cried today when asked about the moment she heard of the death of Saldanha, a mother of two.

"It was the worst phone call I've ever had in my life," she said through tears. "There's not a minute that goes by that we don't think about her family and the thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching."

The DJs said they never expected to get through to Middleton's nurse and assumed, "the same phone calls had been made 100 times that morning," Christian said.

Grieg said, "We wanted to be hung up on with our silly voices and wanted a 20-second segment to air of us doing stupid voice. … Not for a second did we expect to even speak to Kate or even have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on."

The global backlash against the duo has been fierce, from online death threats to calls for prison time. Their radio station has announced it is banning phony phone calls altogether.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio