Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Royal baby hoax call may reignite Leveson debate

Coming less than a week after the Leveson report, and within days of Royal Kate Middleton being admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness following her announcement of being pregnant, an Australian radio station has effectively trashed any hopes that legislation or even a voluntary code might rein in the press when it comes to ethics or standards. 

Hoax call

Radio announcers Mel Greig and Michael Christian, from the little-known 2Day FM and who helm the Summer 30 show on weeknights, managed to convince staff at the King Edward VII hospital in London that they were both the Queen of England and Prince Charles and found themselves connected through to Middleton's private nurse on Tuesday night.

Pretending to be enquiring after the Duchess's health as she battled chronic morning sickness, the duo were informed that Kate Middleton was doing fine and that she hadn't experienced any recent "retching".

"She's sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night, she's been given some fluids, she's stable at the moment,'' the nurse informed the supposed Queen and Prince, adding, "I would suggest that any time after 9 o'clock will be suitable to visit. We'll be getting her freshened up."


The hospital has expressed "regret" over the hoax call which has raised concerns over the Royals' safety. Neither the receptionist who put the call through nor the nurse treating the Duchess suspected anything was amiss, despite the distinctly amateur impersonations of the Queen and Prince's voices. One of the presenters even barked, pretending to be a corgi, while the "Queen" wrongly referred to the Duchess as "my granddaughter".

A spokesman for the hospital said: "This call was transferred through to a ward and a short conversation was held with one of the nursing staff. King Edward VII's Hospital deeply regrets this incident."

The hospital's chief executive, John Lofthouse, said, "This was a foolish prank call that we all deplore. We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."

Reignite debate on Leveson

The call is likely to reopen the debate on the Leveson Report, which proposes state regulation of the British press but makes no attempt to address the issue of the unregulated Internet or media based abroad. Ironically, Lord Justice Leveson is currently in Australia on a speaking tour.

The call appears to have broken Australia's own broadcasting regulations, which stipulate that live programmes must not treat participants in a "highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner". It defines "exploitative" as "clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse the participant for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values".

While most British papers and broadcasters reported the story, most gave only a flavour of the detail handed out by the duty nurse at the hospital. However, newspapers and foreign media website have not held back with some adding audio links or transcripts to their reports. Some individuals have also posted the recording on YouTube.


The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney. A spokeswoman for the station said, "2Day FM sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused by the inquiries to Kate's hospital. The radio segment was done with light hearted intentions. We wish Kate and her family all the best and we're glad to hear she's doing well."

It is not the first time a member of the royal family has been the subject of a prank call. In 1995 a Canadian DJ pretending to be Canada's then prime minister, Jean Chretien, was put through to the Queen and spoke for around 15 minutes, during which he asked her to record a speech in support of Canadian unity before a referendum in Quebec.
More reports: BBC / Sky / CNN / Sun / Mirror / Mail / Guardian / Telegraph / Herald Sun / SMH / Australian

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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