Royal Prank Call Prompts Investigation by Australian Regulator

Southern Cross Media Group Ltd. (SXL)’s Today FM Sydney Pty will be investigated over possible breaches of broadcast rules after presenters made a hoax call to a hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was treated for morning sickness.

The probe of the Sydney-based station will focus on rules on decency, privacy, demeaning treatment of interviewees and consent for use of recorded interviews covered in its broadcast license and radio codes, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said in a statement on its website.

On Dec. 10, Southern Cross canceled the Hot 30 show that aired the prank call, after a nurse who answered the phone at the hospital was found dead. Today FM, which broadcast Hot 30, faces sanctions from mandatory staff training to cancellation of a broadcast license, should the probe find violations, the regulator said.

“The ACMA will be examining whether the licensee has complied with its broadcasting obligations,” Chris Chapman, the regulator’s chairman, said in the statement.

For the prank, presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Price Charles in a phone call to London’s King Edward VII hospital seeking details about the health of Kate Middleton, the pregnant wife of the heir to the British throne.

Southern Cross suspended advertising on its network this week after companies pulled their ad spending.

The broadcaster and publisher fell 0.5 percent to A$1.05 at 1:02 p.m. in Sydney trading, while the S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1 percent. The stock price is 5.4 percent less than its level before the death of the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, last week.

Today FM, also known as 2Day FM, already has special conditions attached to its broadcasting license after separate breaches of regulations by Kyle Sandilands, who presents the station’s morning show.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Fickling in Sydney at dfickling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.