Royal hoax call prankster back on air in Australia

Michael Christian back on air as a presenter of Melbourne’s morning slot on the Austereo station Fox FM
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First Published: Mon, Feb 11 2013. 09 18 PM IST
Michael Christian (above) and Mel Grieg made a prank call last year at London’s King Edward VII Hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, asking about the Duchess’s condition. Photo: AFP
Michael Christian (above) and Mel Grieg made a prank call last year at London’s King Edward VII Hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, asking about the Duchess’s condition. Photo: AFP
Melbourne: One of the two Australian radio presenters whose royal prank call to a British hospital treating Kate Middleton went awry and created a furore when a nurse of Indian-origin committed suicide, returned on air on Monday.
Radio host Michael Christian, one of two Southern Cross Austereo presenters at the centre of the disastrous royal prank, has resumed work.
It all started with what was supposed to be a prank call to London’s King Edward VII Hospital that was treating a pregnant Kate Middleton for acute morning sickness.
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, was the duty nurse when DJs Mel Grieg and Christian called the hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles, asking about the Duchess’s condition. She forwarded the call to another nurse, who divulged confidential medical information about Kate.
The prank was broadcast by 2Day FM within hours, and made headlines around the world.
Saldanha was found dead on 7 December in the nurses’ quarters three days later, having hanged herself with a scarf. One of three suicide notes left behind by her reportedly blamed the DJs’ prank for her death.
Christian went on air on Monday as a presenter of Melbourne’s morning slot on the Austereo station Fox FM.
A spokesperson for Southern Cross Austereo confirmed Christian was back at work and that, when she felt able, Grieg would also be welcomed back to work. “We are happy to have Michael back on air,”
Southern Cross Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying, “We have always supported our talent returning to work when appropriate and today marks that occasion for MC. We look forward to welcoming Mel Grieg back when the time is right,” he said.
It is the station and slot Christian worked on prior to the prank. Austereo had immediately suspended the pair after the controversy and had offered them counselling.
Austereo had also cancelled the Hot 30 show, on which the prank occurred, following a furore over the incident. A company-wide suspension of prank calls was also implemented.
The incident drew wide condemnation. Many blamed the pair for the nurse’s death and Southern Cross Austereo was heavily criticized for encouraging a culture of attention-seeking misbehaviour by its hosts to drive ratings.
“If we played any involvement in her death then we’re very sorry for that,” Christian had later said in a TV interview.
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First Published: Mon, Feb 11 2013. 09 18 PM IST
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