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A phone box, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. (Credit: Leon Rice-Whettonvia Flickr)

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is still fighting in court to release its report on the prank phone call to a UK hospital that was related to the suicide death of a nurse.

However, it is still a mystery. ACMA’s report may call for the suspension of Australia’s 2Day FM’s radio license. According to the Australian, “If it wins the next stage of the legal battle, ACMA could suspend the licence of the Sydney FM station.”

As iMediaEthics has reported, a pair of 2Day FM radio hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, prank-called King Edward VII Hospital in the UK in December 2012. They pretended to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth checking in on Kate Middleton, who was pregnant and hospitalized. The hosts actually got through to the hospital, and a nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, connected them to another nurse, who fell for the prank. After 2Day FM aired the prank call, Saldanha was found dead days later of an apparent suicide.

2Day FM ended up unpublishing the radio clip in question and took the hosts, who apologized, off air. The radio station also stopped airing advertisements temporarily.

The parent company for 2Day FM also canceled the show that aired the prank call, stopped all prank calls, reviewed its practices and donated advertising money for half of a month to Saldanha’s family.

ACMA decided that Southern Cross Austereo’s 2Day FM’s secret recording of the phone conversation and later broadcast of the tape broke the Surveillance Devices Act, a criminal offense, which therefore would mean the station also broke the Broadcasting Service Act license,according to the Australian and Lexology.

But, 2Day FM doesn’t want ACMA to release the report with those findings and continues its court fight with ACMA, which wants the public to know and the ability to act.

The matter has been in court for the past six months.

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  • In November 2013, Australia’s Federal Court ruled ACMA could investigate whether SCA broke the license rules.
  • In March 2014, the same court upheld SCA’s appeal, reversing its ruling in November and saying now ACMA couldn’t investigate, according to Radio Today.
  • In April 2014, ACMA filed an appeal of the March ruling.

According to Australian media news website Mumbrella, “this is the final appeal possible in the case from either side.”

The Australian Federal Court ruled March 14 that ACMA couldn’t investigate the prank as a criminal offense. That decision squashed the report’s release and any resulting actions like license suspension, according to the Australian.

2Day FM’s owner SCA’s chief Rhys Holleran’s response was that ACMA didn’t “have the authority to act like the police.”  Further, 2Day FM said ACMA was trying to be “policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, prison warden and parole officer” with its investigation, report and expected suspension of the station’s license, the Australian reported.

According to Australian media news site Mumbrella, ACMA issued a statement about the appeal bid that said:

“On 11 April 2014, the Australian Communications and Media Authority filed an application for special leave to appeal to the High Court from the decision of the Full Federal Court delivered on 14 March 2014.

“Pending resolution of that application, the ACMA will be making no further comment on the matter.”

iMediaEthics has written to Southern Cross Austereo for comment.

Hat Tip: The Guardian

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2Day Battle with AU Media Authority, Will Radio licence get axed for Royal Prank Call?

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