Monday, 10 December 2012

2Day FM DJs do not deserve this witch-hunt

I can keep silent no longer. I just have to talk about the Australian DJs at Sydney's 2Day FM Michael Christian and Mel Greig, who played a prank call to the King Edward VII Hospital in London, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated - with tragic consequences.

Whilst the prank was far from original and ill advised in the fact it was attempting to glean information on British Royalty - it wasn't deliberately malicious or vindictive. You only have to hear their dreadful attempts at a British accent (pretending to be the Queen for god's sake) to realise that they clearly never expected to get anywhere near the level of information that they got. When a nurse began to reveal intimate details of a patients condition - no matter who that patient is - is the moment the line should have been cut. No one should have their medical cases discussed in an open forum without their clearance. Now there is a chain of command at a radio station - this was a pre-recorded interview - so it would have (and should have) gone through several tiers of lawyers/management before it was deemed broadcastable.

At no point could anyone have foreseen what was to occur last week, when tragically Jacintha Saldanha - a mother of two - and the dedicated nurse who put through this call, took her life. The media who had gleefully reported on a hoax call that had revealed tasty information about the Duchess's condition suddenly turned. The finger of blame was pointed squarely at two people - who let's face it don't seem to have had any basic media law training on what constitutes an invasion of privacy; two people who made a stupid thoughtless call - but who would never ever want to have caused anywhere within the vicinity of pain that they have.

No one may ever know what caused the poor woman to take her own life - what pressures she was under in the wake of such exposure - but one must ask - how did her employers react to her innocent mistake in putting through the call? It wasn't Mrs Saldanha who willingly gave details on how Kate was doing - and even if it had been - was there a point where the hospital officials/bosses realised that it had all been an innocent mistake and one that wasn't worth losing sleep, reputations, careers over?  The Royals were quick to state they made no complaint; the hospital quick to blame the radio station - the radio station to state they had tried to call 5 times to check if the call could be broadcast. Even if they had called 100 times - the point is, until they got through and got clearance to use it - why did they think it was ok to broadcast what they did? 

Watching the two DJs stumble their way through interviews today - shell shocked and filled with regret - I felt sorry for them. For there isn't one of us who hasn't played some stupid prank on schoolmates, or colleagues or friends at some point in our lives - and we never gave it any further thought. Obviously this was played out across the airwaves - not some intimate little tease in a school playground - therefore it has a much more responsibility. Is the point that we never know how our actions will be interpreted and therefore we must tread forever softly, lest we offend, or damage someone irreparably? 

How ironic that the press - those who have phone hacked, or doorstepped, stalked or harrassed can sit in judgement hanging these two presenters out to dry. They may have behaved stupidly - but they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives - they don't need the weight of the press bearing down on them to remind them of the terrible consequences of their actions. Are they to blame? I say not. It was not a live show - some big wig gave that go ahead - and they made a grave mistake. But you have to ask - what was the reaction of the hospital when the spotlight was shone so brightly on them - did they feel they needed to point their own finger of blame?

Maybe we will never know. Investigations are imminent.  Michael and Mel should be left alone. They look as devastated and upset as anyone could expect. They are not demons, they are not murderers - they played a stupid joke - they didn't know the moment when the joke had gone too far. That is all.

One hopes that the deeply shocked family of Jacintha are getting all the support they need at this time. The last thing they need is to have cameras on their doorstep, during a time they need compassion and privacy. May I suggest that the press allow the Sydney DJs the same courtesy...


Kate said...

well said wuz, love how the media lapped it up and aired the call constantly, them turned the next minute and are pointing fingers.... facebook opinions on this are interesting reading

GFairy said...

Great points very well put :o)

I'm just gonna throw these out there too, just because...but I really wish we could have a proper debate over a large glass of red!

I do think these guys bear some responsibility and while a witch hunt is not the answer, you and I have both worked with these kinds of people and we know that while the last thing on their mind may have been someone committing suicide...the SECOND last thing on their mind, were the real life potential consequences of their call.

If this woman had simply lost her job (a real possibility, especially given the subject matter here), would that have been acceptable? Would they still be playing the radio segment down under, ad infinitum? I'm thinking yes. So the fact this woman made that terrible decision to end her life, makes this more awful. But what if she'd been a single mum...with four kids...who lost her job before Christmas? They didn't have a clue who they were calling, much less care. Where do we draw the line between a harmless prank and something that requires some forethought of who will be affected?

Also, it makes me crazy that everyone seems to know this woman's emotional/mental state before the call - "there must be other issues here" "she must have had depression". Ugh. Horrible speculation. However, what should be considered by these types of radio personalities, is that not everyone they decide to have fun with, might be as "socially-normal" as them or be mentally equipped to deal with their actions. Again, I'm gonna file this under "not even considered before they made the call".

Ultimately (and it seems the DJ's are laying the blame squarely here too) the call was pre-taped and the decision to air the segment was made by suits who have encouraged this sort of behaviour from their hosts in the past. The blame can equally, if not more so, be laid with the culture of an industry that demands such forms of so-called entertainment and for those in that industry to constantly feel the need to one-up their peers.

So while a witch-hunt solves nothing and while the consequences could never have been foreseen, these two are hardly blameless - they came up with the idea, they made the call. Whatever they say, the likelihood of consequences - small or large - in a call such as this, were very real.

Anyway, that's all I wanted to say - wish we could eat chips and cheese and come to the conclusion that radio is stupid and so is tv. But that we are not stupid and that we are pretty!


Sinead said...

I'd really love to know why her employers didn't help keep her away from the little media song & dance show that happened afterwards. They were responsible for her as an employee of theirs, made work in a difficult, extraordinary position with the biggest breaking news in the world in their building - OF COURSE there was going to be a slip-up at some point. She should have had more of the "support" they claim thy were giving her. Made even more difficult when it seems her husband & kids were living in the family home in Bristol and she was staying in the nurses quarters at the hospital. All alone. So, so sad. Why, when even Prince Charles - not famed for his GSOH - was cracking (good) gags about it, did she feel such overwhelming shame? Why was she allowed feel that way? I don't know what constitutes 'giving support' at that hospital but FFS don't admit me there if I'm in need of any mental trauma care..

Scott Harman said...

I've got to say - I agree.
The opening salvo was tragically funny, but everything after the call was transferred should never have been broadcast.

I don't know if it would have affected the outcome, but it may have changed the nature of the recriminations.

Crummy Mummy said...

God I love all these commenst - G Fairy that really made me think - I totally agree that in that industry the xulture od extreme and one -upmanship is always there. My god - in the days I worked at L!VE TV - there isn't much they DIDN'T do... Also - whilst prabking of celebs can be deemed suitable, after all they choose to be in the public eye - to hijack someone outside the industry isn't. But where is the line drawn - media doortstep folk, reality Tv contestants (no matter how clueless) can be victimised, even dodgy tradesmen/businessmen can be exposed in all manner of TV expose programmes - what if one of them took their own life? Whilst not blameless - they could never have forseen these events and to be demonised because of them is just ridiculous. Perhaps the UK media who had a sense of humour bypass may also not sleep so easy in their beds tonight - for they were certainly a contributing factor in these events....