Damien on… Who Killed Jacintha Saldanha?
Prank phone calls have been around since Alexander Graham Bell.
And radio prank phone callouts date back at least to the Fifties – legendary DJ, Wolfman Jack, was a master of the art.
But last week, one such call ended in tragedy. Two young hosts on a local radio station in Sydney, Australia – posing as QE2 and the Windsor Wingnut – rang the hospital where Princess Kate was staying, to ask how she was doing.
Having likely been raised on “Carry On” movies on TV, the young presenters had assumed their deeply LAME impersonations would be detected immediately – and that they would be told off by a Hattie Jacques-type matron.
However, Britain is not like that anymore. These days, most hospitals employ foreign personnel in minor positions and the call was answered by a passing Asian nurse who, it being the middle of the night with the switchboard unmanned, simply passed the call to the duty nurse handling Kate.
She in turn assumed the call was kosher and began giving details of the princess, while the two hosts just “went along with it” – thinking they had unexpectedly obtained a scoop (many Australians being obsessed by Britain’s royals).
But then three days later, that passing nurse – hanged herself.
So whose fault WAS the death?
Many said the nurse herself: she must have had “issues” to have cashed in her chips over such a trivial affair – the prank call being the straw that broke the camel’s back. But those people forget the ETHNIC dimension (possibly for PC reasons).
While such nonsense would not have affected a Westerner unduly, people from other backgrounds can, whilst their English may be conventional, possess very different values from said Westerners.
The whole business might have seemed catastrophic to Jacintha.
Also, while the hospital has claimed that no action was taken against Jacintha – who knows WHAT was said to her – or by whom?
It could be that her superior gave her an almighty roasting – and following the suicide, understandably kept shtumm. But they will now have to carry a mountain of GUILT for the rest of their lives.
Which brings us to those two hosts. One had only started with the radio station the previous day. His career is now SCREWED and like his co-host, he will DEFINITELY be carrying that mountain of guilt.
But their role in this affair is secondary. They were mere pawns in the game.
The REAL villains of this piece are the radio station and in particular, the PRODUCER of the programme.
I understand that this latest business is not the FIRST time the station has been in trouble over on-air hoaxes. Over the last fifteen years, it has had a NUMBER of “stunts” end badly – this is just the first that has resulted in a DEATH.
For those unaware of on-air hoax protocols, they are basically as follows…
To air an audio, video or audio/video recording made without the participant’s knowledge, one of the following conditions must apply:
In the case of an investigative journalistic piece, the piece must be “in the public interest” – which does NOT cover a topless princess or similar.
And in the case of a “candid camera” stunt, or ANY piece made for entertainment purposes, ALL participants must sign a waiver. The broadcaster must get clearance from EVERYONE directly involved, using a legally binding RELEASE FORM.
This last is why people’s faces in such pieces on TV are often “pixelised” – even when they are merely bystanders. A number of TV stunts have gone wrong in the past and so these days, production companies take no chances.
Of course, obtaining such consent is expensive, difficult and time-consuming – and where a piece is time-sensitive, often impractical (the Princess was only set to be in hospital for a few days – and it was on the other side of the World).
Thus many broadcasters – particularly small ones – prefer to just let the lawyers hear the piece and if they okay it, broadcast it and hope for the best.
But in THIS case, they got the WORST.
Many celebrities have been pranked by PROFESSIONALS – comic impressionists and the like – but they are PUBLIC figures who are prepared for such nonsense.
However Jacintha was just a little nurse – a stranger in a strange land – who found herself in the middle of something that was too big for her.
Her blood is on the hands of “2Day FM” and the producer of “Hot 30” – THEY are the ones who should be in the spotlight.