The Prank in Perspective: Comment from Peter Saxon

You Have Blood on Your Hands screams the headline at the MailOnline. The truth is, at this stage there are few facts known about the cause of nurse Jacintha Saldanha’s tragic death, other than it occurred three days after she put through a prank call to pregnant royal Kate Middleton’s room from the Today Network’s  Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

The only official word, as reported in the less sensational Independent is: Scotland Yard said the death was not being treated as suspicious, and a source said officers were investigating whether she had taken her own life. Mental health experts cautioned against any assumptions about factors contributing to her death.

Yet, social media and the old world press both here and in the UK have already passed judgment on who and what caused Mrs Saldanha’s death. And as is the marvel of the internet, within hours they have formed a lynch mob far more likely to induce suicide amongst the pranksters than could have been foreseen through planning the original prank.

What if the unthinkable happens, and either Mel or Mike take all that abuse to heart and decide to end it all because the shame was too much to bear? Will the MailOnline take responsibility for their “Blood On Your Hands” headline? It seems far more likely to cause hurt than a bad impersonation of Her Majesty. After all, this is not just a typical twitter rant about them being fat or boring, we are talking about accusing them of having a major hand in a person’s death. It’s not something they are likley to brush off lightly.

I’m told by SCA insiders that both Mel and Mike are absolutely devastated over the turn of events to the point of illness.

Prank calls have been a part of radio since Marconi played striker for Florentina. Often they are crude, rude and embarrassing, granted. Many, far worse than this. Few, if any, have ended like this.

But surely, no breakfast team, nor their lawyers, or for that matter, the MailOnline or anybody in their right mind could have foreseen the death of a participant as a remotely possible consequence of this particular prank. The day before, even Prince Charles had laughed it off.

If British investigators ultimately find that Mrs Saldanha took her own life as a direct response to her being duped by the 2Day pair and the ACMA subsequently finds a breach of the code, then much of under 40’s FM programming as we know it will be under threat. It could go the way of  the ban on teachers hugging kids that need one or parents taking photos in public places. In both those instances, in my opinion, the greater good has been usurped to reduce a very tiny risk.

If the the British investigators do happen to find 2Day somehow culpable, they may also find the British media equally, or more to blame. After all, the prank was broadcast in Australia and it was the British media who whipped it up into a frenzy over there, with twitter and other world media jumping on the bandwagon.

I’m not for one moment attempting in any way to diminish the very real fact that a respected nurse has died in the prime of her life leaving two children without a mother. An individual loss of life does not get much more tragic than that.

But that’s about the only fact we have and not much else.

Yet media, both old and new, are so keen to apportion blame to either sell more papers or just vent their spleen, that all presumption of innocence with or without the facts is swept by the wayside.




Peter Saxon


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