tip off

A single hoax call, so many repercussions

Crikey readers have their say.

Royal phone prank

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Keane: resisting the witch hunt on the royal prank call” (yesterday). A thorough post-mortem into 2Day FM’s latest disastrous prank would do the radio industry a huge favour. “Fickle finger of fate” formats that ambush people to denigrate, humiliate and upend their lives for the amusement of ghouls is really low-rent stuff.

Media outlets flogging anti-social behaviours is hardly nation building not that Austereo shareholders or its board of directors seem keen on setting standards. 2Day FM’s regular walks on the wild side have come at a huge cost to itself and the community. As King Edward VII’s Hospital chairman said, it’s truly appalling that executives and producers pre-recorded and transmitted material bound to cause grief and it’s similarly appalling they left young career aspirants to cop the blame. Ditch the format and ditch its architects — Jacintha Saldanha wasn’t the only one hoaxed by Austereo.

Jackie French writes: What if the prank had succeeded? If they had been put though to a desperately ill young woman, with a life threatening condition where it is misery to even lift our head up to take a call. If there had been no suicide, just a woman who already had found her privacy shattered, desperately trying to answer a call because it came from her mother in law, and head of state, would there be giggles and rejoicing because it succeeded?

No one who had neither experienced myasthenia gravis, or been with someone who is suffering from it, has the right to pronounce on this. I watched a dear friend manage to survive — just — six months of myasthenia gravis, so that her child could be born. You do not try to “prank call” someone who is hospitalised, especially with a condition where even answering the phone may make them worse. Nor do you trivialise their condition.

Barry Welch writes: The hoax call from the DJs at 2Day FM which resulted in the suicide of a nurse will be defended by the media as “freedom of speech” and as Peter FitzSimons is already claiming it merely “part of a genre , a practice beloved through the generations and around the world”.

Those who defend these malicious acts by those who believe the possession of a microphone, parliamentary privilege or gallons of ink, shields them against consequences just don’t get it.

A culture which under the guise of freedom of speech, I would argue, sees Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt launch vitriolic attacks against indigenous Australians, Muslims and anyone not from the far Right, which sees an unrelenting, vicious and baseless smear campaign being conducted against Julia Gillard by the shock jocks, print media and, of course, Tony Abbott’s opposition is not acceptable.

Freedom of speech is not licence. With freedom of speech should come responsibility, and where it is misused, culpability.

Given the conduct of his radio station, it might be time that Max the Axe was axed.

Colin Kennedy writes: Amidst all the soul-searching, sadness, blaming and shaming around the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha I stumbled upon a particularly egregious piece of hypocritical claptrap.

One of 2GB’s resident knuckleheads, Ray Hadley, was rabbiting on about the sad situation when he made the extraordinary claim that FM radio stations were held to a different set of standards to those which applied to (his own) AM stations, and that these FM stations had over the years got away with behaviour which would not have “passed muster” with his own upstanding broadcasting vehicle.

Funny, but I don’t recall any FM stations being held up to public scrutiny for inciting racial hatred, vilifying and wishing the death of the PM, traducing the reputation of anyone who dares to cross them, demonising whole sections of society including Muslims, gays and greenies … you get the drift.

It is truly amazing how little sense of self-awareness most of these bloviating bozos have.

Trolling online

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Stilgherrian: is there really too much freedom of speech online?” (Monday). The abusive trolling on the web exists only because blog, website and YouTube channel owners allow it. It is not difficult to hold comments for moderation before publishing or deleting them. Many websites and forums require registration and all their comments have a “report this” tab that permits other forum members to police their own standards.

It would even be possible to require people to register with their real name before being permitted to post. Many print newspapers still require that writers of letters to the editor provide their residential address and telephone number (which may be checked, but are not published). The New York Times allows “verified” commenters to post directly and screens all others. Many of their articles attract over a thousand published comments, so it’s doable and does not stifle debate.

On a second issue, I find it hard to be offended by data mining if the worst the data miners can do is to direct targeted advertising my way. I’m not saying it is the worst, but that we often don’t discuss the greater risks. As to Facebook controls being weak and their small print obscuring users’ privacy rights, the web has abundant blogs and forum topics criticising Facebook. Buyer beware.

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    pmcheever@gmail.com
    Posted Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    There are two stories here.

    First. all pranks are a form of hazing. and based on experience at fraternities, defence establishments and many other organisations, including corporations with significant hierarchies, hazing will inevitably produce outcomes of tragic results. To conduct pranks, or hazing, is to play a lottery which you hope you won’t win, but also where you have no control over outcomes which may be extreme.

    Second, I would ask if either the hospital’s or the station’s first response to the PR blow up was to consider the impact on the employees involved. We lost one woman in the UK; we could have lost a DJ in Australia.

    We are better advised as a society to follow a path of respect for each other. All those in public and private leadership should be measured against this standard.

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