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ACMA fails again

December 10th, 2012

Following the tragic suicide of a British nurse, the victim of a cruel and unfunny practical joke by an Australian radio station 2DAYFM, what action can we expect from the Australian Communications and Media Authority which is supposed to regulate such matters? Following the most recent of many such breaches of license conditions, in May last year, ACMA warned 2DAY-FM that it could lose its license if such behavior continued. But ACMA has never cancelled a license, and clearly never will. So, we can expect another warning, or perhaps some meaningless, and unenforceable, license conditions.

ACMAs total failure contrasts with the success of the Facebook backlash against Alan Jones, which has cost him and his employers millions in lost advertising revenue, and greatly reduced his power and influence.

At this point, it’s clear that licensing has failed. Rather than continuing with this farce, we should auction the spectrum currently allocated to commercial radio, and let the winners do what they want with it, subject to the ordinary law of the land (which prohibits recording deceptive calls, though this law is never enforced against radio stations). As a community, we should continue to punish the corporations that sponsor the likes of Jones, Kyle Sandilands, and their latest imitators.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    December 10th, 2012 at 08:32 | #1

    The legal position of the perpetrators might be fraught. It is not illegal to impersonate but it is illegal to impersonate with a view to committing a crime. Obtaining private data by false pretences (via impersonation) might be a crime.

    I am no monarchist. However, the current position is that “… the sovereign is regarded as the legal personality of the Australian state, which is therefore referred to as Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Australia.” This raises the issue that impersonating the Queen (no matter how bad the impersonation) to obtain information or influence might be an offence.

  2. December 10th, 2012 at 08:44 | #2

    Beg to differ.

    You didn’t thin it funny but Chucky did!

    such phone-calls have gone on for yonks so what.

    suicides happen because such people are selfish and self centered and thus never take into account what other people think about their actions.

    This incident is entirely different to the Jones episode.

  3. David Allen
    December 10th, 2012 at 08:58 | #3

    Wow. Just wow. Disappointed you have dived into this craziness too, John.

  4. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:10 | #4

    So, David, you think we should be giving away radio spectrum to subsidise this kind of activity?

  5. Julie Thomas
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:31 | #5

    It is only craziness if people assert that there is a right or wrong, left or right, way of thinking about this incident. It is not clear to me that it is simply an isolated incident that can be safely ignored as a source of potential destabilising events in future.

    We need to have a conversation – such complex times and so many issues that need to be talked about – and we don’t really have much evidence on which to base a rational response that tries to accommodate all of the different types of people who share the planet.

    Wendy Harmer on RN this morning had some interesting insights.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/2day-fm-prank-wendy-harmer/4417766

    The point she made that was important to me, was that this prank call contrary to those done by Wendy and her colleagues, did not reveal to the person being pranked, that this was the case.

    Perhaps, just debriefing of ‘victim’s’ needs to be regulated?

  6. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:34 | #6

    I agree. This event is just an extention of the media’s trampling of rules, rights and responsibilities. The fact that it now appears that they have actually broken the law in recording a conversation without seeking permission, and then put it to air amplifies the failure of common decency. Not to mention the disrespect for the monarchy and all of those people who feel strongly for their heritage and take it seriously.

    I’ve decided to mount my own little proctest on this class of privacy creep. From now on when people ring and announce that this conversation “might” be recorded for “training purposes”, the response will now be “call me back when you can say with certainty that the call will not be recorded”. The can do their “training” in private.

  7. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:38 | #7

    Whatever we do about distribution of spectrum, this whole hate campaign against “mel” and “Michael” is silly. They made a prank call. Even in tort, before one can show damage through a tort of trespass (nuisance) one must show a fairly clear causal chain between the trespass and the loss or damage. There is no clear causal chain between the act of the nurse-receptionist and the act of the prank caller.

    It might well be that the prank call is in violation of elements of the statute law — the Listening Devices Act (NSW) , misuse of a carriage service (I think that’s under the Federal Crimes Act) but however this might be, these are minor matters in this case.

    It should be noted that deception is not a crime per se. One is entitled to lie to people and to misrepresent oneself. It only becomes illegal/tortious when one relies on that to obtain some benefit to which one would not have a legal entitlement or a benefit at the expense of the person deceived. One would be hard pressed to show a benefit surrendered by the receiving parties surrendered as a consequence of the deceptive call. One might say that, at a couple of removes, 2DAYFM received a benefit (ratings, elevated advertising rates, custom) and thereafter the announcers get paid from these proceeeds, but the linkage is tenuous and would fall well short of the “obtain benefit through deception” standard. It’s really too remote, IMO.

    So what has really happened here? A banal stunt on a radio station aimed at people who prefer to move rather than think has had a tragic consequence that the parties could not have reasonably foreseen. It might well be that this nurse’s employers were principally at fault — for not putting in place protocols for dealing with media, and not recognising her fragile mental state and putting her in a place where it might be tested.

    It’s dreadful that a woman has taken her life, but whoever is responsible, it is not the mindless spruiking duo at 2DAYFM. Indeed, they may well now be paying a dreadfully high costs for being painted as the bad guys here. I’m ready to stand corrected, but I doubt there’s a malicious bone in their bodies.

    We probably do need to re-examine how spectrum is given out — not I hasten to add — as a consequence of this kind of caper, but more generally because public spectrum should clearly be associated with the provision of public goods, and it is not clear that the private operators are delivering benefits commensurate with their monopoly of the airwaves they have.

  8. Katz
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:56 | #8

    I agree with FB.

    A dispassionate analysis of the suicide of the nurse will reveal that the trauma she suffered emanated with the feeding frenzy perpetrated by the British tabloid press, not an obscure radio station in faraway Australia.

    If the British press thought that 2DAY were the culprits before the suicide of the nurse, why did they not harass the radio station rather than the nurse? What has happened since is a classic case of bait and switch.

    BTW, for the life of me I cannot believe that anyone would believe the comically and probably deliberately inept impersonation of the royal personages (and corgis!). This hoax is similar to the Chasers’ OBL jape, which was clearly designed to fail, yet bizarrely succeeded in achieving an object that had never been sought.

  9. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 09:57 | #9

    “Banal” doesn’t preclude “Cruel”, “unfunny” and “irresponsible”. Any prank like this is basically malicious. Usually the consequences aren’t so bad, but I doubt that the recipients are often pleased.

    The way these things work is that lots of people get away with bad behavior, until something goes badly wrong, as in this case. Those who pulled this particular stunt are suffering a lot, though obviously not nearly as much as the victim’s family.

    But the real problem is with the business model of the radio station, which relies on a steady diet of this kind of thing. If we want to persist with content regulation at all, the license should be withdrawn. Since no-one has the stomach for that, let’s stop the pretence that there are any standards here, and let them bid for the spectrum instead of receiving it free.

  10. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:03 | #10

    @FB ” It might well be that this nurse’s employers were principally at fault — for not putting in place protocols for dealing with media,”

    When you need this kind of blame-the-victim special pleading, you know that you’re pushing a weak case. In fact, my reading suggests that the protocols were in place, but the nurse (doing double duty as a night phone operator) was tricked into passing on the call anyway.

  11. December 10th, 2012 at 10:28 | #11

    The issue of gaining revenue from the spectrum is separate from the prank call.

    These calls can be funny and unfunny. Malicious seems to be a bit extreme to me.

    John, if she was dealing with calls to the hospital then shoe should have been trained to deal with them. clearly she wasn’t.

  12. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:32 | #12

    PrQ:

    “Banal” doesn’t preclude “Cruel”, “unfunny” and “irresponsible”.

    No, it doesn’t but in this case no cruelty, intentional or unintentional was directed at either of the nurses, as far as I can tell. If there was any “cruelty” it was to the audience, who endured perhaps the lamest impression of the two foos at the peak of the royal family I’ve ever heard. Perhaps the Queen and Charles were offended by this parody, but that goes wityh thier position.

    All satire — indeed, virtually all attempts at humour involving public figures is by definition “irresponsible”. Recently, in The Hamster Wheel the Chaser folks featured, a pre-written obituary for public figures such as Reinhart, Murdoch, Rudd, Turnbull and a few others. That was a lot more “cruel and irresponsible” than anything the 2DAYFM team managed, clearly directed at the figures involved, and also quite a bit funnier.

    Those who pulled this particular stunt are suffering a lot, though obviously not nearly as much as the victim’s family.

    That’s true but irrelevant, surely? The 2DAYFM announcers seem to have been the proximal cause of this act — though this remains unclear — but they had no business assuming that a nurse receptionist would react in this way. People who have suffered far worse humiliation than to put through a phone call they should have dumped have managed to avoid taking their lives. Clearly, if it really was the case that this incident alone caused a women with a loving family and children to re-evaluate her life as unbearably futile then she was clearly someone in need of a good deal more support from her employer than she had recieved in the four years she’d been with them. The Daily Mail initially asserted that “the palace” was “privately furious” — and they were blaming the nurse receptionist for a ‘security breach”. Hours later of course, they’d changed tack and were casting blame elsewhere.

    When you need this kind of blame-the-victim special pleading, you know that you’re pushing a weak case.

    That’s mistaken on two counts. Firstly, I wasn’t “blaming the victim” (unless you are implying that the King Edward VII Hospital management team is a victim). I was attributing cause to a human resources and management policy failure. Secondly, there is no connection between claims about attribution and “having a weak case”. I can’t begin to imagine what would prompt you to say this.

  13. Tom
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:55 | #13

    I would argue strongly against blaming the victim in this case, however it is not as simple as blaming 2DayFM.

    First, the callers are making a call overseas (although Britain have a similar culture to us it is not completely the same e.g. Monarchy’s existence); thus what we or any individual in Australia think as acceptable or not-acceptable, rude or entertainingt might not be so entertaining or acceptable in other places. It is not appropriate to think what we think as every day thing to be acceptable for people grown up in a different environment.

    Second, the British have their things for the Monarchy. Anyone that thinks the nurse did not get pressure from her community are kinding themselves. It might be a bit simple to think the nurse is overreacting or have mental illness (not objecting she has).

    Last, we do have to realise that 2DayFM was making a prank call (an act of lying), recording it, and broadcasted on air. This act by itself although not criminal, it should not be something 2DayFM or us (or maybe it’s just me) to treat it as a social norm. I do not, however, simply blame 2DayFM for this tragedy. Ignorance or being inconsiderate for others is a common act of humans.

  14. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 10:56 | #14

    Another relevant analogy is given by the initiation games played in university colleges, workplaces, army units etc with St Johns College at Sydney as the most recent example. The arguments above map 1-1 into those of critics and defenders of the long-standing practices there.

  15. Tim Macknay
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:04 | #15

    Perhaps the prank was irresponsible. Personally, I thought it was quite funny at the time, although clearly the tragic suicide put an end to any humour in the matter.

    I think the underlying cause of the tragedy is the absurd sense of importance surrounding the “royal” family, such that the nurse in question found herself to be in such a compromised, untenable situation. Perhaps the quick application of Madame Guillotine to a few “royal” necks could sort it out once and for all.

  16. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:05 | #16

    Here is what I wrote about this at 8am on Saturday morning, just after the story of the death broke:

    I don’t know anything at all about Mel Greig and her sidekick, but I’d be surprised if, in their wildest nightmares, they imagined this would be the result of their prank. It seems they thought they’d be rumbled from the start. It did have a rather artless Colonel-Hogan-plays-German-officer quality about it. By the time they got through, it was clear Mel had run out of material and was winging it. It was cringeworthy.

    Reading Twitter, there’s a twitter storm around them, with some even calling for them to be charged with murder or manslaughter, which to my mind is grossly OTT.

    Outside perhaps of those who are terminally ill and in irremediable pain or really have no prospects of dignified existence and have made a considered decision to do die on their own terms, anyone taking their own life is a dreadful thing. I don’t know how these two announcers will respond to this, but I don’t accept that they are guilty of anything but being banal and crass — like the environment that produced them.

    If nobody at the hospital or who knew this nurse well ought to have suspected she was at risk of self-harm when she went to work that day then one can scarcely blame these two announcers for the tragic events.

    When bad things happen, there’s often a search for blame. That’s understandable. Human beings mostly prefer an orderly and predictable world. Some things really are unpredictable however, and if we start holding people accountable for things that even reasonable, experienced well-educated people – still less radio announcers – could not foresee, then we are going to have a much less pleasant world to live in.

    One may say that the whole mad celebrity culture thing is a predisposing or distal cause and I’d agree. At one end, this story was interesting because it concerned members of the elite and the fascination of the press with even the most banal and trivial facts attending Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. At the other end, there are people needing to trade on this for some mindless fodder for discussion at the coffee machine in offices in Sydney.

    We should be concerned not with celebrity but with the needs of humanity as a whole. We should live in a world in which the media is focused on social justice and progress and in which privilege is modest if it exists at all and earned by service to equity.

    Chance would be a fine thing.

  17. John Brookes
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:10 | #17

    I’m told that the call was not broadcast live, but was run past lawyers and whoever passes for someone responsible at that radio station before it was put to air.

    So maybe people could lay off the young and stupid DJs, and focus on the radio station management.

    BTW, when I was young, I would have thought it was pretty cool to pull off a prank like that. So its a bit hard for me to be too hard on them.

  18. Ikonoclast
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:30 | #18

    There is a difference between theatrical impersonation aimed at an audience and deceptive impersonation designed to “prank” people and obtain amusement (often derisive) at their expensive. Members of the public vary greatly in their ability to either shrug off or be deeply upset by being held up to ridicule and public view in this fashion. Modern media including the internet can be very powerful in making an obscure and innocuous person a target of widespead amusement or derision.

    Those irresponsible and thoughtless people in the media who think this kind of thing is just a big joke have now been given a salutary and well-deserved lesson. Careless and reckless use of the mass media can harm lives. It’s about time it was reined back. It has nothing to do with the serious uses of the media for public information and accountability. It’s frivolous, unfunny and unnecessary. Light and specious “entertainment” of this type deserves no protection. The privacy rights and right to be unmolested by ridicule does deserve protection. Media and internet ridicule and bullying of children is rightly condemned. Equally such activity against adults should be condemned. As I said, not all adults are equally robust in the ability to shrug off such matters.

  19. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:33 | #19

    @Tim Macknay

    I think the underlying cause of the tragedy is the absurd sense of importance surrounding the “royal” family, such that the nurse in question found herself to be in such a compromised, untenable situation.

    Very much so …

  20. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:37 | #20

    There are standards here, but thay are double standards.

    Radio stations are able to protect themselves from the public and do with their 5 second delay in the event that a live interviewee says something unfunny that would affect the station’s ratings. Generally public participation in live radio is direct dialed to the participant who therefore has awareness of the vulnerability, or the stiuation is setup through a “friend” who then has a moderation role to play.

    In this case the access was indirect and took advantage of the special nature of the caring (read trusting) environment that the intended target was in. This meant that there were multiple victims of the prank, and this was highlighted in content of the prank, “I can’t believe that we actually got through….” ie the protectors were incompetent.

    The station had the responsibility to reveal the prank to the victim and obtain a publication release. This, as I understand it, was not done. So the station is protected via various mechanisms, but the victims not.

    I saw David Marr talking about his interview with Tony Abbott for a book. Abbott gave Marr a number of responses to questions and demanded that they not be made public. Despite Abbott’s many betrayals of public trust Marr complied. Most importantly Abbott expected that Mar would protect his confidence due to the risk of professional ostracision if the trust was not honoured. This is Prof Quiggins point. These stations operate with impunity as their is no fear of consequence for questionable behaviour or cost from loss of situation, which he postulates can be correct with a periodic commercial contest for the right to transmit.

  21. John quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:41 | #21

    @John Brookes “focus on the radio station”
    You mean, as in the OP

  22. John quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:44 | #22

    As regards blaming the hospital isn’t the tragedy bad enough without scapegoating some unfortunate HR person as well. How about some personal responsibility starting with Max Moore Wilton who’s in charge of the whole deplorable show

  23. December 10th, 2012 at 11:53 | #23

    John ,
    you clearly are not thinking straight.

    If the nurse in question has been given the right training no-one would have ever heard of the prank call because she would have dealt with it.
    I agree with Jonathan Holmes, without the suicide, it would be viewed as a humorous ( or attempted) episode. This was clearly seen by Chucky over the week-end.

    you are being far too self-righteous.

  24. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 11:56 | #24

    John Brookes, the DJ’s equally had time to rethink the advisabilty of the prank, and could still have commercialised it in the form of an annecdote rather than a full replay. They are not off the hook, they have to feel the pain and learn from this tragedy otherwise they will ratchet up the stupidity even further. Lets think what could they move onto…perhap posing as parents and calling kids in cancer wards and joke about how little life they have left, someone would think that was funny, wouldn’t they…?

    Before I was born my father and uncle set off for the movies in Strathfield. Along the way a cyclist crested a hill on the wrond side of the road and colided with a car. Father and uncle both of whom had war service comforted the dying man covering him with my fathers jacket. No longer interested in the movies they headed home and had the “wouldn’t it be funny if” thought, so my uncle was holding my fathers blood soaked jacket when my surprised pregnant mother answered the door. That prank was funny for about a milli second.

    Not everything is funny. But that is not the point here.

  25. Geoff Andrews
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:00 | #25

    @John Brookes
    I agree with both you and Fran, John.
    I also heard the story that the “prank” had been recorded and approved for broadcast by a higher authority at the station; so the station manager’s hypercritical “the announcers have been stood down until further notice” spin is just as worthy of condemnation and a slap over the wrist with a wet bus ticket by ACMA.
    I wonder if the nurse was officially reprimanded by the hospital or offered counselling by one of the staff psychologists. Maybe we should be blaming the generals rather than the foot soldiers for the loss of the battle?

  26. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:01 | #26

    Nottrampis,

    I didn’t think the prank was at all funny. And that was before hearing of the suicide. Now the station management don’t think that it was funny since hearing that it was most likely illegal.

  27. MG42
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:06 | #27

    The pro and the con sides have already come out on this issue and stated the main points.

    To be as unbiased as possible, it was a freak incident and 999 times out of 1,000 nothing would have happened and it would have been laughed off. Personally I abhor juvenile humour like that – it’s really being obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious – but until more information comes out and the sensationalism dies down one can’t really make a critical decision re: free speech vs speech limitations/spectrum redistribution etc.

  28. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:12 | #28

    Tim Macknay,

    There was a time not that far back when impersonationg a monarch would result in a short period in high rise accomodation and a basketed head. That is the other option to your postulation.

  29. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:14 | #29

    PrQ:

    As regards blaming the hospital isn’t the tragedy bad enough without scapegoating some unfortunate HR person as well.

    It surely wouldn’t be “some unfortunate HR person” (possibly in this case someone called Hazel Borthwick, the HR Chief and Anne Jenkins – Quality and Risk Manager). It ought to be the whole HR department along with whoever is doing OH&S and who counts as the site manager at King Edward VII hospital. According to their website:

    King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes operates to the very highest standards … The Hospital runs rigorous audit programmes to ensure the highest standards of care are maintained in all areas. Our satisfaction surveys consistently rank us as one of the best hospitals in the UK.

    They have a Clinical Governance Committee (formed in 1999) reflecting the varying components of clinical governance. These include assessment of clinical outomes and risks, complaints management, audit, training and patient interests. The membership comprises consultants from medicine and surgery, the Medical Director, the Chairman of the Medical Audit Committee, the Chief Executive, Matron and senior nursing staff, an external medical advisor and a patient representative.

    This is the place I’d start asking questions about what went awry.

  30. December 10th, 2012 at 12:17 | #30

    So some people think it wasn’t funny. That isn’t the point as some thought it was, including the heir to the throne, before the suicide.

    Put me clearly in the Mike Carlton camp in this situation.

    I don’t listen to the station but in the end an inexperienced nurse is not the fault of the
    Station but the hospital.

    Again the suicide was clearly not the fault of the station.

  31. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 12:44 | #31

    FB,

    Your missing the essential point that the station failed get a publication release from the victims. Taking photos in broad daylight and public spaces is one thing, but invading a persons bedroom (hospital room in this case) is another thing altogether. If you listen carefully to how pranks are set up the victim usually is aware at some time during that event that they are involved in a “situation” and have the opportunity to deny the publication.

    Contrary to the claim that this is only not funny because some of the victims are “royals”, there is an expectation that “royals” are fair game for any form of humiliation, and with impunity.

  32. Tim Macknay
    December 10th, 2012 at 13:00 | #32

    @BilB

    There was a time not that far back when impersonationg a monarch would result in a short period in high rise accomodation and a basketed head. That is the other option to your postulation.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean, BilB.

  33. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 13:12 | #33

    So, to sum up, Fran and trampis, Moore-Wilton, Holleran, and the shareholders of Austereo get to keep their publicly-subsidised profits, while Hazel Borthwick and Anne Jenkins, women of whom you know nothing, deserve to be driven out of their jobs for failing to anticipate that Aussie radio listeners would have some good clean fun with their nursing staff (or, as it appears, setting up preventive procedures that failed).

    Isn’t one suicide enough for you?

  34. December 10th, 2012 at 13:33 | #34

    oh dear,

    if there is one thing you should have learnt then it is putting the b.lame of suicide onto anyone either directly or indirectly is rather silly.

    I am wondering why you wish to dismiss the lack of training of the nurse.

    Afterall as I previously stated if she had been provided with that we wouldn’t have a prank call.

  35. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 13:43 | #35

    @nottrampis

    Umm, you and Fran appear to be blaming someone, just not the right person(s).

    Also, I wonder if either of you has ever worked in an organization that puts on lots of training courses. Do you really think a nurse with a demanding job and a family is going to pay a lot of attention to a course on telephone policy?

    I skive my way through lots of compulsory training courses (fire safety, OSHA and certainly telephone policy) with a (low-probability) potential of tragedy as a result. If someone ever set fire to my building, it appears I can count on you to defend the arsonist, and blame the training section.

  36. Ikonoclast
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:00 | #36

    Remember the Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity which states;

    “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”

    Nobody would like to be “pranked” in a way which might open them up to mass ridicule and/or censure or dismissal from their employer.

    Application of the Golden Rule also requires the sensitivity to understand that “action X might not bother me but it might well bother some other persons”.

    Having said that, the young DJs at the heart of this issue should be provided with all the support and counselling required. The management and ownership chain certainly need to be held accountable. They should pay for staff counselling and pay damages and compensation to the family of the victim. I would be pleased to see the victim’s family win punitive and exemplary damages from the station owners.

  37. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:07 | #37

    PrQ:

    So, to sum up, Fran and trampis, Moore-Wilton, Holleran, and the shareholders of Austereo get to keep their publicly-subsidised profits,

    Pardon? I feel sure that I made clear that the distribution of spectrum rights was an entirely separate issue — unconnected with these events. See my last paragraph in #7. You do sound rather invested here.

    while Hazel Borthwick and Anne Jenkins, women of whom you know nothing, deserve to be driven out of their jobs

    Again, excuse me? For a start, I avoid speaking about ‘just desert’ as a matter of policy. It’s much too metaphysical for me. In the end, management failures lie with the board of the hospital, and remedies, if inadequacies are revealed, need to be made at line manager level. I see no obvious reason why Ms Borthwick and Ms jenkins couldn’t be part of the solution, assuming there was a presenting problem.

    It’s most unlike you PrQ, to start doing petitio principii. To the best of my knowledge, the precise etiology of the tragic death of this nurse remains unclear. perhaps the hospital is to blame, or perhaps it isn’t. It’s utterly premature to start speculating on what I would think apt in the case of the senior management team there. I am somewhat perplexed that you seem ready, on the basis of no information at all, to give the hospital a free pass on this. That you say virtually nothing on the culture of celebrity which was almost certainly the biggest single factor in predisposing both the prank and the interest the matter raised in the utterly feral UK media, is even more unusual.

    Isn’t one suicide enough for you?

    Again, this is most unusual. If I didn’t know better I’d say that Freelander had hacked your ID. Self-evidently, I don’t advocate suicide and as I’ve made clear, believe a very solicitous and respectful attitude should inform human resource management policies attached to those with mental health issues. I’m also wondering why the mental health status of the 2DAYFM doesn’t appear to loom large on your list of concerns. They are probably feeling rather dreadful — and unlike the nurse-receptionsist, really are being bullied personally by everyone who thinks expressions of high dudgeon automatically make you a better person. This was a juvenile attempt at humour, played for the amusement of people of undeveloped consciousness. There was no malice directed at the nurses as far as I can tell. It’s particularly hard to understand how the dealing of the announcers could have caused such pain to the receptionist and thus how the announcers, even if they’d been a hell of a lot sharper than they appear to be, could have foreseen it. Yet you seem to be implying that they (and by extension their employers) have done the equivalent of pushing a commuter into the path of a moving train for a prank. I don’t agree that this is the substance of their act.

    I hesitate to speculate on how you’ve have come to utter the above commentary but I think I will leave it there because you seem rather to have lost perspective and to be in some distress and I don’t at all wish to add to it.

  38. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:16 | #38

    @John Quiggin

    Also, I wonder if either of you has ever worked in an organization that puts on lots of training courses.

    Merely as you’ve asked, I am a teacher, so yes, all the time. It’s grossly offensive that you would imply that I would side with an arsonist, but it does afford a view on the relationship that you see as existing between the event above and the tragic death of the nurse.

    Now that really is it for me on this matter in this place.

    PS: Am I in the mod bin now? If so, on what basis?

  39. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:30 | #39

    oops

    the 2DAYFM announcers doesn’t

  40. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:31 | #40

    The station management are now saying that they do have proceedures for obtaining publication release. They say that the 2 presenters followed proceedures. They say that they attempted a number of times to get in touch with “those people” but were unable to achieve this.

    Removing the redaction.

    The presenters obtained access to a member of the royal family through deception. They did this in accordance to the outlined proceedures. The station management attempted to contact the royal family in order to get clearence for publication as they are required to under their proceedures. Management were not able to repeat the deception and gain access to the royal family. The management decided to make public the recording.

    This suggests that the station management ignored their own proceedures, or the proceedures are entirely optional and ineffective, as is the ACMA.

    That is how I heard it and interpreted the management’s version just now.

  41. Tom
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:38 | #41

    @Ikonoclast

    While agreeing with your comment, this situation is a bit more complicated than consideration for others. Like I have pointed out, what seems alright or not depend on the social norm of the community. Since prank call radio is not illegal and actually commercial, the DJs and the station may think that these type of things are perfectly fine to do.

    On the other side, the DJs or the station have certainly not thought of the consequence of the nurse when this call breaks public due to the “royal family”. Consideration to at least hang up, not recording it or not broadcast it can be made, even if the call was transferred.

    Although I personally favour the victim, the DJs and the station in this case simply lacks consideration for others and are ignorant due to social norm (or perceived social norm) but don’t necessary have bad intentions.

  42. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 14:41 | #42

    @FB This is the latest in a string of similar stunts pulled by 2Day/Austereo, with no regard for the victims. A tragedy was inevitable sooner or later. The fact that those who played this particular prank are likely to suffer, while the likes of Sandiland continue to prosper, only makes matters worse.

    As you say, you’ve chosen not to address this issue, the subject of the post. Rather you’ve cast around for someone else to blame for the particular tragedy that took place, then resorted to the same kind of amoral management-speak we’ve had from Austereo.

    In the end, management failures lie with the board of the hospital, and remedies, if inadequacies are revealed, need to be made at line manager level.

    I can’t believe I’m reading this stuff – I don’t think I’m the only one who’s invested here.

  43. rog
    December 10th, 2012 at 15:22 | #43

    I know that Wendy Harmer likes to draw a line between good and bad stunts but I can’t really see the difference, they are all invariably childish and lacking in any real value. They aren’t really in good humor as the joke is invariably at someone’s else’s expense. All this money paid to supersized egos to run the equivalent of schoolboy fart jokes, a waste of a good medium.

  44. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 15:34 | #44

    As regards the unforeseeability of bad consequences, it should have been obvious that someone could lose their job over giving unauthorised access to a seriously ill patient, whether or not a famous one. Fran has helpfully verified this point, naming those she thinks should go, while still insisting that both the presenters and their employers are in the clear.

  45. BilB
    December 10th, 2012 at 15:41 | #45

    ” All this money paid to supersized egos to run the equivalent of schoolboy fart jokes, a waste of a good medium”

    comment of the week.

  46. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 16:19 | #46

    @John Quiggin

    Fran has helpfully verified this point, naming those she thinks should go

    oh for pity’s sake …

    PrQ said:

    while Hazel Borthwick and Anne Jenkins, women of whom you know nothing, deserve to be driven out of their jobs

    Again, excuse me? For a start, I avoid speaking about ‘just desert’ as a matter of policy. It’s much too metaphysical for me. In the end, management failures lie with the board of the hospital, and remedies, if inadequacies are revealed, need to be made at line manager level. I see no obvious reason why Ms Borthwick and Ms Jenkins couldn’t be part of the solution, assuming there was a presenting problem {emphasis added}</blockquote

    .

    Verballing me not only ill-becomes you PrQ, but it’s especially ill-advised in a text-based medium.

    I apologise for adding a further comment. I didn’t want to do so, but misrepresenting what I said to make some point you obviously feel quite deeply is wrong. I am genuinely disappointed that this is where you have gone. There are only a handful of commentators in public space whose arguments, through familiarity, I have come to respect and whose integrity seemed to me to be beyond reproach. You have been amongst those, John.

    As I said above, I can’t imagine what is motivating you to behave in this way. Perhaps there is some deep-seated personal reason. By all means disagree with me sharply on the substance of the matter, but I’d urge you to step back from playing the sorts of games one sees on the less well-moderated parts of the Internet. I really don’t want to believe that this is who you are when challenged.

    If my reasoning is wrong, or ethically unsound, let’s hear why that’s so, without strawmen and verballing.

  47. Katz
    December 10th, 2012 at 16:40 | #47

    It emerges that the management of 2DAY attempted five times to get permission to play the prank. However, they failed. Nevertheless management gave the two DJs permission to proceed with broadcasting the prank.

    At least that mitigates in a major way the culpability of the DJs.
    However, so far as the management were concerned, their culpability in breaching broadcast regulations and perhaps a raft of laws has increased.

    It is a pity that it took the death of a person to stir authorities to do their duty.

  48. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 16:46 | #48

    I’ll step back a bit, Fran. You’ve also been a sensible commentator in general, but I’m at a total loss to understand your eagerness to defend 2DAY-FM, a station with a long history of appalling behavior, to the point of throwing accusations at named individuals of whom neither of us know anything. You may be motivated by concern for the presenters, but since the post didn’t mention them except in the most minor and indirect way, and since you repeatedly ignored my attempts to shift the focus back to the radio station as a whole, I find it hard to credit this.

    If you say you don’t want hospital employees to lose their jobs, I’ll accept that, but it’s obvious to me that jobs are going to be lost over this, and in the absence of any explicit statement from you to the contrary (I took your comments about deserts to be handwashing, rather than an explicit denial), I don’t think I was verballing you to make the inference.

  49. Jim Rose
    December 10th, 2012 at 17:27 | #49

    I never found pranks and practical jokes to be in anyway funny. They involve laughing at people, not with them. Some people do not remember the manners their mother taught them.

    As for the foreseeability of the tragedy, subjecting a private citizen to global humiliation would test their robustness.
    • Plenty of experienced public figures became fragile because of public humiliations.
    • A number of people in high stress jobs are always more fragile.
    • Plenty of people have been driven into the care of their doctors by Facebook humiliations and cyber bullying.

    Survivor guilt can lead to tragedies. The hero of the hour, who dived repeatedly into raging waters or ran time and again into a burning building, can be overcome with guilt because some could not be saved.

    The gutter press has a long history. They should not be regulated because that would legitimise them. They can say the regulator did not object.

    Codes of the ethics are worse. Ever heard of industry capture?

    I went to an ethics in field research course once. The national code was written by psychologists and sociologists. The whole point of the code was to give them cover for risky research and deception (as long as their professional mates on an ethics committee approved). It never occurred to the presenter that those field audits and correspondence studies that are so popular now waste the time of the people who fill them out.

  50. December 10th, 2012 at 17:44 | #50

    Cut it out john,

    You think it wasn’t funny and I agree. We are the same vintage so I can tell you I would have thought it funny 40 years ago.

    Pranks calls are as old as that so your theory of inevitable tragedy is nonsense.

    As for training in dealing with the public. Each company I have worked for has had it.

    I repeat if the nurse had sufficient training no-one would have known of the call.
    This is something you and others have repeatedly ignored.

    I maybe wrong but the only people who were ‘cruel’ in this instance were Fleet st and their response which for some inexplicable reason you have neglected.

  51. John Quiggin
    December 10th, 2012 at 17:53 | #51

    @nottrampis

    I guess you didn’t bother to Google “pranks gone wrong” before posting this.

    “I maybe wrong”

    The first sensible thing you’ve posted on this topic.

    As regards Fleet Street, how does their predictably appalling behavior excuse the equally appalling behavior of their Oz counterparts? The media have been disgraceful in general, yet you want to stick it to the victims.

  52. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 18:29 | #52

    @John Quiggin

    I’m at a total loss to understand your eagerness to defend 2DAY-FM, a station with a long history of appalling behavior

    I don’t suppose it is possible that in this particular instance, they might have no case to answer.

    Let me be clear: I have exactly zero interest in protecting asset values in the commercial broadcasting sector. If, tomorrow, every man jack of them concluded that a firesale of their assets was the best course, I’d not be amongst those complaining. If on the day after, a decision was taken to hand out the spectrum and lease the assets bought at firesale to consortiums of community groups representing the spread of community in Australia, then I’d be boasting about it to non-Australians on those days when I was having an illicit dalliance with Australian patriotism.

    As that’s unlikely, I’m open to considering any combination of maintainable measures that would make for a less banal and crass set of offerings on the AM/FM and TV bands. That has nothing to do with this matter, the crassness aside.

    to the point of throwing accusations at named individuals of whom neither of us know anything.

    I made no accusations. I asked questions to which there are not at this stage, reliable answers. Perhaps the hospital really is blameless, but that remains unclear. I doubt the british media is blameless though — and I know that the Daily Mail is not.

    it’s obvious to me that jobs are going to be lost over this

    It’s not obvious to me, and less so than it would have been before this latest tragic twist.

    If I have a dog in this fight it’s the desire to see the whole celebrity culture thing pilloried — you can call that the agenda of an egalitarian of course.

  53. rog
    December 10th, 2012 at 18:33 | #53

    @nottrampis Interesting that the health service, which as a public service is always subject to revenue cuts and political point scoring, is being held to blame for the silly pranks of a commercial entity of no real benefit.

  54. December 10th, 2012 at 18:52 | #54

    Come on john you are catallaxying yourself,
    We were talking about prank calls stress calls in Australia.

    now given your expert status on this do you wish to tell us how many of those over 40 years have ended in tragedy?

    you want to conflate it to all pranks.

    I do note johnathon holmes tonight on 7.30 didn’t think the call was cruel.

    you still do not want to address the major issue which is if the nurse had proper training there would have been no prank call.

    don’t be narky as it doesn’t become you

  55. December 10th, 2012 at 22:06 | #55

    Quite obviously these DJs aren’t mensa candidates.

    Making a joke at the expense of a pregnant woman, in hospital with complications, is very bad taste. Also it isn’t funny.

    The person most likely to be dusting off their resume right now is the lawyer in the legal department of the radio station who gave the go-ahead to broadcast the prank call. It was in breach of radio industry guidelines (i.e. the station did not call back and obtain permission to broadcast the call from those who had been pranked).

    The call itself was funny, not at the expense of the target (which WAS bad taste) but at the expensie of the DJs – because of the juvenile antics during the call. How old are these people, really?

  56. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 22:39 | #56

    @Steve at the Pub

    Making a joke at the expense of a pregnant woman

    Huh? What joke was that? Lady Gravida barely got a mention outside of the news that there was no news. The “joke” if one can so dignify the exchange, was the silly parody of royal usage.

    in hospital with complications,

    “Morning sickness” is no more a “complication” of pregnancy than a hangover is a complication of a night on the turps. She was in a private hospital bed for something working class (and even middle class) women endure with equanimity. This woman was of course, carrying the royal seed, which is obviously different.

  57. Neil
    December 10th, 2012 at 22:45 | #57

    @Fran Barlow
    “She was in a private hospital bed for something working class (and even middle class) women endure with equanimity”.
    Morning sickness comes in variety of forms, not all of which can be borne with equanimity. Kate had hyperemesis gravidarum, which can cause renal failure and death (of mother and baby).

  58. December 10th, 2012 at 22:46 | #58

    Shorter Fran Barlow: She wasn’t pregnant? Her condition had not deteriorated? A medical definition of “morning sickness” varies slightly from the one I used? Dr. Barlow diagnoses that the patient wasn’t really sufficiently ill to be in hospital?

    And any of those somehow make it okay to have a joke at the lady’s expense?

    Oh-My-God!

  59. December 10th, 2012 at 22:50 | #59

    Let us not forget the point of this post, which is that our blog host sees a couple of vapid DJs get into hot water, & twists this into “proof” that radio stations should be made to pay through the nose for their use of the airwaves.

    Some things never change! Our blog host has yet to see enterprise without triggering a reflex “this must have the living daylights taxed out of it.”

  60. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:08 | #60

    @Steve at the Pub

    You’ve yet to establish that some joke was made/attempted at her expense, even assuming that would be _a_bad_thing. Royalty is an offfensive joke at the expense of humanity. Surely, humanity ought to be able snipe back, given the asymmetric power relationship involved.

    Let us not forget the point of this post, which is that our blog host sees a couple of vapid DJs get into hot water, & twists this into “proof” that radio stations should be made to pay through the nose for their use of the airwaves.

    He made no such claim. Perhaps he should have, but he didn’t.

    re: hyperemesis gravidarum

    “It’s not unusual for pregnant women to get morning sickness, but when it gets to the point where you’re dehydrated, losing weight or vomiting so much you begin to build up (toxic) products in your blood, that’s a concern,” said Dr Kecia Gaither, director of maternal fetal medicine at Brookdale University and Medical Center in New York.
    The condition is thought to affect about one in 50 pregnant women. Dr Gaither said that fewer than 1 per cent of women with the condition need to be hospitalised.

  61. Neil
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:11 | #61

    @Fran Barlow
    An “I was wrong” would have done.

  62. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:13 | #62

    @Neil

    Had I been wrong …

  63. Neil
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:19 | #63

    @Fran Barlow
    You said she was in hospital for something that can and is borne with equanimity. I pointed out you were wrong. You replied with a quotation that backed *me* up. Which you take to support your original point. Not your best day (my partner was hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum and placed on a drip; I think I can be forgiven for being close to calling you rude names).

  64. Geoff Andrews
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:27 | #64

    The two facts seem to be have consistently reported when one sifts through the Chinese whispers that go for world reporting, are:

    1. the two DJ’s recorded the incident; submitted the recording to the station management/legal/PR(?) teams and were given permission to broadcast. The responsibility (I didn’t say “blame”) obviously returns to management.

    2. When the story went viral, the identity of the nurse who has allegedly committed suicide was not known to the public but would have been known to her colleagues and the hospital administration. I have no doubt that both nurses would have been quite excited to have spoken to the Queen and related their adventure openly to colleagues over a cup of tea.

    The letter of complaint sent by the hospital to the station directly blames the station administration and asserts that:

    “The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses”.

    If they WERE humiliated, it could only have come from within the hospital – colleagues doing a bit of leg-pulling or worse; a formal reprimand by the Matron or worse. So if humiliation was a factor in her death, that humiliation did not originate in Australia.
    Note also that two people were fooled by the supposedly awful accent and we still don’t know the identity of the second nurse (thank goodness) who gave the Queen such terribly terribly personal details, which were probably released in a royal press release an hour after the DJ’s call.

    Perhaps we should all wait for the inquest, which might include evidence from the second nurse.

    As for the station’s pathetic, juvenile attempt at shifting blame “we tried to call five times”: “Mum I tried to call you five times but you were always engaged so I had to sleep over”.

  65. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:27 | #65

    @Neil

    Since you missed it the first time:

    The condition is thought to affect about one in 50 pregnant women. Dr Gaither said that fewer than 1 per cent of women with the condition need to be hospitalised.

    Also:

    Hyperemesis is considered a rare complication of pregnancy but, because nausea and vomiting during pregnancy exist on a continuum, there is often not a good diagnosis between common morning sickness and hyperemesis. Estimates of the percentage of pregnant women afflicted range from 0.3% to 2%

    my partner was hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum and placed on a drip; I think I can be forgiven for being close to calling you rude names

    I’m sorry to hear that your partner was particularly unwell. That has no bearing at all on the state of her royal duchiness. What names you call me is a matter for you.

  66. December 10th, 2012 at 23:28 | #66

    “…..some joke was made/attempted at her [Kate Middleton's] expense, even assuming that would be _a_bad_thing…”

    Fran, when you refer to humanity, in the interests of accuracy please refer to it from the outside.

  67. Fran Barlow
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:31 | #67

    Anyway, I did promise to end my commentary on this here, and very much regret not honouring that pledge, so, Rocky & Bullwinkle-like, this time for sure.

  68. Neil
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:36 | #68

    Fran, what *is* your problem with logic? today I said that ‘morning sickness’ exists on a continuum, from the unpleasant to the life threatening. This was in response to your claim that it is merely unpleasant. No amount of your repeating my point will show that I am wrong. Perhaps you think that the relative rareness of it being serious is somehow relevant. Perhaps you think that somehting being relatively rare entails that it doesn’t exist. You point out that it is hard to diagnose. Perhaps you think that its being hard to diagnose means it doesn’t exist. Perhaps you are having a very bad day (like JQ, I note that you are normality sensible).

    How about this for a compromise? SInce you obviously are suffering from some kind of obtuseness that is for the moment unable to be shifted, I will concede that your points are somehow relevant and that morning sickness is never more than unpleasant. You go away happy and I won’t trouble you again. I think that’s the path of least aggravation. Clearly further argument is not going to bring enlightenment in this case (let’s say it won’t bring enlightenment to me).

  69. Geoff Andrews
    December 10th, 2012 at 23:55 | #69

    Come on fellas – go to bed.

    It was a joke, Joyce. It was really at the Queen’s expense. Charles is reported to have had a smile. The nurses were not the target. It had unintended and tragic consequences, the full story of which we as yet do not know. End of story.
    Let’s talk about something really interesting like fiscal nett GDP to debt ratio and it’s effect on AAA membership and by the way, today was cooler than yesterday so yah pooh to global warming I told you so, Steve.

    Good night.

  70. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 03:38 | #70

    JQ – Leaving aside the debate about the rights and wrongs of pranks I agree with your proposed remedy simply on principle. Although I’d also expect the ABC to have to bid for radio spectrum as well. We expect both the ABC and commercial radio stations to purchase the land they use in open competition with other alternate land users so why not the same with spectrum. It is at the end of the day essentially just another form of real estate.

  71. BilB
    December 11th, 2012 at 05:28 | #71

    Terje,

    The ABC fills the role of providing non commercial public interest content, and is therefore outside the regular commercial tent. Public Interest is a concept that the Libertarian camp tend to reject and the community accepts. Come to think of it Community is a conceptually arbitrary to the Libertarian ideal where freedom is the primary goal.

  72. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 05:55 | #72

    Clearly you know stuff all about libertarianism so for the moment I’ll just ignore those glib remarks. Except to say that, just like markets, communities are readily built by free individuals without coercion.

    In terms of the ABC it’s financial statement shows that it owns $0.4 billion of land and buildings. It can buy and sell land according to it’s needs on normal commercial terms. The same can be said of it’s web servers and transmission facilities. I see no reason why it should manage spectrum on commercial terms. Obviously it might entail an initial increase in it’s budget to reflect the regime change but there after it should balance it’s priorities across various channels with the cost of delivery. After all it is a corporation.

  73. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 05:57 | #73

    Correction: I see no reason why it should not manage spectrum on commercial terms.

  74. John Quiggin
    December 11th, 2012 at 06:01 | #74

    @Steve at the Pub

    Hey Steve, welcome back. Still peddling kooky conspiracy theories? I’m keen to know which ones you like and which you don’t.

  75. Julie Thomas
    December 11th, 2012 at 06:27 | #75

    Oh dear in moderation because of profanity I suppose. So without the obcenities;

    Terje “communities are readily built by free individuals without coercion.”

    What rubbish. Got a reference for this claim?

    You have to be delusional to think that ‘individulals’ who can build and participate in markets and communities, just happen. Children require coercion and other inputs from parents, extended family members and to have been involved in a ‘community’ to grow up into adults, hopefully if all goes well.

    It takes a village to raise a child to be an adult that understands what a community is and how to build a good one. How could a collection of individuals all seeking to advance only their own interests build a community?

  76. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 06:33 | #76

    How could a collection of individuals all seeking to advance only their own interests build a community?

    Are those the only interests you think people care about?

  77. BilB
    December 11th, 2012 at 06:55 | #77

    And, Terje, you don’t see the flaws in the notion of a non commercial public interest media body owned by, and funded by the community from taxes competing in the market place for access to bandwidth?

  78. Julie Thomas
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:07 | #78

    Terje Of course they aren’t the only things libertarians think or care about; so why do you emphasise these things over the ‘other’ things that people do well?

  79. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:10 | #79

    BilB – It is competing either way. It just that if it has to pay on commercial terms rather than being gifted the asset rent free then it also has to commercially weigh it’s alternatives. And if it later decides to sell some of it’s spectrum on commercial terms because it has through innovation found better ways to reach it’s target audience then it will have an appropriate incentive to do so and will free up this resource. If the ABC finds that some of it’s land is surplus to it’s needs it can sell it and free up land for others to use. I really can’t see why you would treat spectrum substantially different to land. Do you think the ABC should be allowed to sell it’s land on commercial terms? Or to exchange it for other more suitable land? How is spectrum substantially different? Sure the borders of spectrum are defined by frequency as well as geography but it is in essence a land like resource that is finite but available for sub-division, sub-letting and all the same basic notions that apply to land. And the ABC is a corporation expected to operate according to normal commercial accounting practices. It may be subject to government grants and it’s goals are not profit oriented but it has always been a corporation.

  80. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:17 | #80

    Julie Thomas :
    Terje Of course they aren’t the only things libertarians think or care about; so why do you emphasise these things over the ‘other’ things that people do well?

    Where did I do that? I attempt to be realistic about incentives and self interest. Not to emphasise one outlook over the other in some exaggerated way. Clearly some people and some groups of people are more self interested than others. However either way I think freedom from institutionalised coercion (i.e. government) is generally the best practice. If we were an ultra selfish society filled with really self centred people I would find the case for centralising power with governments to be even more abhorrent. And if we are not then the need for government is quite limited. At least that is how I see it.

  81. hc
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:24 | #81

    A silly prank perhaps but I laughed – not much, it wasn’t that well done – when I heard ion the TV news the accents and the fake corgi barking. Then it probably becomes a precursor to an unspeakably tragic disaster that no one could have anticipated.

    I think the scale of the consequent tragedy is overriding commomsense in assessing what was at most, a silly prank that went wrong.

    As usual the media are turning the whole thing into a low-effort space filler of unwarranted indignation. Who can be blamed? Who? Who can we crucify today?

  82. Meg
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:36 | #82

    Have we not heard of eggshell plaintiffs? It’s where the defendant is liable for injuries made worse by someone’s pre-existing condition, even if they didn’t know about them.

    ‘Eggshell plaintiffs’ are exactly why you don’t prank people. Because you don’t know them. You don’t know how they’ll react. That is a risk you take. And it’s a risk the station took with its typical lack of editorial judgement.

    Firstly in not getting the consent of people involved (pranks don’t even work if you do this, of course) and secondly in then airing it without consent.

    Pranks are essentially bullying. You can get away with bad behaviour but every once in a while there will be dire consequences.

    I doubt this incident should even be called a ‘prank’ given how trivial people seem to think they are.

    If the aim of your prank is to elicit private medical information through deceptive means then maybe you should just call it fraud.

  83. BilB
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:45 | #83

    That flaw.

    Why would you have a body enter a bidding contest that it cannot loose? This has the effect of raising the cost of the use of the publicly owned (leased out) asset (bandwidth) unnecessarily.

    I suspect though that Libertarians imagine that it should be possible for an individual or group of individuals to “own” the full bandwidth and lease it for maximum gain. Like that would ever happen. But then again there was the Bechtel/Cochacabamba water crisis.

    A commercially monopolised radio bandwidth would bring up some really interesting possibilities such as the cutting of all access to radio communcation at the height of a bush fire storm, because the Country Fire Service had not paid their account. Who else might do such a thing? I know, Telstra. Telstra who cut off all phone connections to the Cook Islands (I think it was the Cook Islands) over delayed payment of accounts.

    These are some of the glib thoughts that I toy with.

  84. Ikonoclast
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:49 | #84

    Ordinary workers were put in jeopardy of official and/or employer criticism, sanction and/or dismissal by an idiotic, juvenile stunt.

    It is the anti-worker aspect of the stunt that really riles me. In our overly hiearchical and exploitative society you should never give ammunition to the “powers that be” to scapegoat individual workers.

    In a sense the DJs are victims also. They are workers too and relatively young and inexperienced. Their management and owners failed them by putting them to juvenile rather than worthwhile work in the first place and failing to follow rule and protocol when allowing the particular segment to go to air.

    The whole thing is a morality tale of the absurdities and mischief created by a system where the pursuit of money trumps common sense and common consideration.

  85. BilB
    December 11th, 2012 at 07:54 | #85

    Good thought there Meg.

    Further to the eggshell argument, in Hoaxing a hospital by phone from afar the pranksters have no measure of what the hospital is coping with at that moment. This was London so the hospital might well have been handling a flood of casualties from a bombing and in the turmoil the might have had any amount of unpredictable access.

  86. rog
    December 11th, 2012 at 08:18 | #86

    Prank calls to emergency services eg ambulance continue to drain resources – pranks cannot be trivialised as “fun”

  87. Katz
    December 11th, 2012 at 08:50 | #87

    Virginia Woolf and others perpetrated a famous hoax against the Royal Navy.

    The hoax was in part motivated by the pacificism of the Bloomsbury Group. Predictably, establishment bloviators called for prosecutions. But nothing of the sort arose. As Wikipedia puts it:

    When the prank was uncovered in London, the ringleader Horace de Vere Cole contacted the press and sent a photo of the “princes” to the Daily Mirror. The group’s pacifist views were considered a source of embarrassment, and the Royal Navy briefly became an object of ridicule. The Navy later demanded that Cole be arrested. However, Cole and his compatriots had not broken any law. The Navy sent two officers to cane Cole as a punishment but Cole countered that it was they who should be caned because they had been fooled in the first place.

    So who wants to cane Mel and Michael?

    PS. Despite the Bloomsburys, WWI broke out.

    PPS. Virginia Woolf later committed suicide.

  88. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    December 11th, 2012 at 09:35 | #88

    I think the key point that Julie Thomas @75 was making is that the pre-social individual is a myth, and that we start life as babies and children in families and communities (of various kinds, depending on the culture), and develop within social relations that shape us, long before it occurs to us to become self-conscious individuals.

  89. December 11th, 2012 at 12:54 | #89

    Last point first: I don’t see how auctioning off spectrum to the highest bidder for the highest price will improve the appalling state of our media.

    On the appalling media:

    My opinion is that the anger from the broad community is because of how rubbish our media is. It routinely engages in lies, hate, spin, propaganda, sensationalism, trivia, misrepresentation, cruel victimisation etc.., etc.., and serves almost no useful or positive purpose to us as a society. People are sick of its self-importance, arrogance, lack of humility and accountability while holding its privileged position as the megaphone and gatekeepers for “the 1%”.

    Blame the hospital: This is simply weird. As I understand it, someone was made to think they were on the phone to a relative of a patient and put the call through to the area caring for that person. The two staff members were, collaterally, held up to international ridicule (the first I heard of this thing was when watching one of those foreign news shows on SBS TV). I can’t see how this could be blamed on lack of training. What would such training look like, and how would it prevent being tricked like this?

    They’re not “journalists”: Seriously, I heard this line of defense on the ABC yesterday. Nobody said they WERE journalists. That is telling because, to my mind, it tends to show that those defending the media know full well that the anger is caused by the appalling state of our media as a whole – ‘entertainment’/'news’/'opinion’/'comment’, they have deliberately blurred all these into one and now don’t like the consequences.

    Couldn’t have been “reasonably foreseen”: As was pointed out above, you take your victim as you find them and if they have an ‘eggshell skull’, that’s your problem not theirs.

    Again it is interesting that reasonable foreseeability is a legal concept pertaining to liability for damages arising from negligence. The “wagonmound” cases would surprise some commenters who would build their defense of our trashy media on lack of reasonable foreseeability.

    You can apologise or be ‘sorry’ for an outcome without being liable at law. My guess is that the public (rightly or wrongly) blame the “media”, as an entity, for the whole thing and see all the spin and PR damage control for the cynical self-justification exercise it is.

    As with so many issues, I have the feeling that the two “sides” here consist of those with a kind of tribal loyalty to the MSM on one hand and the rest of us on the other.

  90. December 11th, 2012 at 14:04 | #90

    “December 11th, 2012 at 06:01 | #24 Reply | Quote @Steve at the Pub

    Hey Steve, welcome back. Still peddling kooky conspiracy theories? I’m keen to know which ones you like and which you don’t.”

    A most unfortunate statement. Most unfortunate indeed.

    Every pronoucement of our blog host henceforth must be viewed through the prism of the above.
    I cannot say if our blog host has sought, or is under, the care of mental health professionals, but I can say that no person will ever, in my presence, quote him or any research/work of his, as a reliable source. Neither will any committee I am a member of accept any report/recommendation that is authored in whole or in part by him.

    Given the above juvenile twittering, how could I do otherwise?

  91. J-D
    December 11th, 2012 at 15:04 | #91

    Thanks, Steve, for that ‘We warn the Czar!’ moment.

  92. Julie Thomas
    December 11th, 2012 at 15:43 | #92

    Thanks I did mean that and also, Bring Back Birdy, I want libertarians to tell me when and how we decide that an individual is an adult, and hence ready to take responsibility for their choices and actions?

    Does chronological age tell us how mature an individual is?

    Or is there some test we can give people to determine if they have, not only the intelligence, but the other capacities that are needed to function in the way that libertarians believe would create a perfect world.

  93. Jim Rose
    December 11th, 2012 at 15:54 | #93

    The issue is the lawfulness of deception in society. When people pretend they are someone else, the law presumes that they are up to no good. A very safe assumption.

    Telephone pranks are the low tech predecessors of hacking. At a minimum, both waste other people’s time in the first instance and through the need for additional safeguards against unauthorised and malicious access.

    How was the prank call different from hacking the computer records of the hospital?

  94. Katz
    December 11th, 2012 at 16:44 | #94

    As FB correctly noted @ #7 above:

    It should be noted that deception is not a crime per se. One is entitled to lie to people and to misrepresent oneself. It only becomes illegal/tortious when one relies on that to obtain some benefit to which one would not have a legal entitlement or a benefit at the expense of the person deceived. One would be hard pressed to show a benefit surrendered by the receiving parties surrendered as a consequence of the deceptive call. One might say that, at a couple of removes, 2DAYFM received a benefit (ratings, elevated advertising rates, custom) and thereafter the announcers get paid from these proceeeds, but the linkage is tenuous and would fall well short of the “obtain benefit through deception” standard. It’s really too remote, IMO.

    Laws preventing unauthorized broadcast of material is another matter.

    In order to prove a case of negligence against 2DAY and/or the DJs, the nurse’s family would need above all demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that the broadcast itself caused the mental shock that resulted in her suicide. The respondents in such a case could demonstrate that it was not the broadcast itself but the way in which the British media made use of that broadcast which caused the mental shock.

  95. TerjeP
    December 11th, 2012 at 17:37 | #95

    I want libertarians to tell me when and how we decide that an individual is an adult, and hence ready to take responsibility for their choices and actions?

    If you’re looking for some utopian answer to that question there is no magic number. However the law offers a couple of suggestions. For example 16 for sex and 18 for death by war or drunk by alcohol. Unless a judge determines the person to lack mental competence. Instead of chasing lifeboat examples why not deal with the practical realities of life. Adults are overwhelmingly capable of making their own decisions.

  96. Dan
    December 11th, 2012 at 18:01 | #96

    @TerjeP

    As an adult who I think would be judged by most criteria of having made good decisions, I’m not at all sure that ‘decisions’ as such exist.

  97. J-D
    December 12th, 2012 at 09:07 | #97

    It is reported that Jacinta Saldanha left a suicide note, but the contents have not been disclosed. To me it seems over-hasty to draw conclusions about her suicide without knowing the contents of that note.

    Of course it’s possible to form a view about the behaviour of the radio station and its employees without drawing any conclusions about the suicide.

  98. David Allen
    December 12th, 2012 at 09:22 | #98

    John,

    This is the complete conversation between 2Day FM and the nurse in question according to the published transcript.

    GREIG: Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?
    NURSE: Oh yes, just hold on ma’am.
    GREIG: Thank you.

    The rest of the call is with another different nurse.

  99. Jeff Rankin
    December 12th, 2012 at 09:38 | #99

    @David Allen

    Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?

    The funny part of that is Kate had been her granddaughter, the caller couldn’t have been the Queen, unless the marriage is incestuous, or William isn’t a close blood relative of the Queen.

  100. Katz
    December 12th, 2012 at 10:33 | #100

    The second nurse was entitled to believe that she was actually speaking with an authorized person, having been allowed access by the gatekeeper on the switchboard.

    Therefore, the person on the switchboard was responsible for enabling unauthorized access.

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