Sydney radio station could face criminal charges: Legal experts

The Australian radio station behind a hoax phone call to the London hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated could face criminal charges for airing the conversation, legal experts said Tuesday.

Last week's prank was widely condemned days after it aired, after the still-unexplained death of an Indian-origin nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who answered the phone and helped two RJs get confidential information about Kate Middleton's health. But when it comes to a potential criminal case, the question is not about the death it's whether a private conversation was broadcast without the permission of the participants.

Violators could be sentenced to prison, but it's unclear who at radio station 2DayFM or its parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, made the decision to air the call. The RJs have said executives above them made the decision, but a former 2DayFM host who orchestrated many pranks for the station said RJs were always involved in such decisions while she was there.

Southern Cross Austereo said the station tried five times to contact the hospital, but privacy law expert Barbara McDonald said that could prove to be an inadequate defence.

New South Wales Surveillance Devices Act prohibits broadcast of recorded private conversations without participants' permission, with violations punishable by 5 years in prison and a fine of up to 55,000 Australian dollars ($58,000).

The network, however, insisted it did not break any laws, as it came under pressure to explain who cleared the call.

Network to give $500,000 to nurse's family

Southern Cross Austereo Tuesday said it would contribute at least $500,000 to a memorial fund to help the grieving family of Jacintha Saldanha. The network said it would resume advertising and donate its profit to help Saldanha's family. It said it would make a minimum 500,000 Australian dollars ($523,600) donation to the fund.

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