Prank fallout: First advertiser abandons TodayFM as listeners voice complaints

THE supermarket chain Coles has pulled all advertising from 2Day FM following widespread anger on social media about the suicide of the British nurse who fell for a 2Day FM prank call.

‘‘We understand Australians are clearly angry and upset by what appear to be tragic consequences of the 2Day FM hospital prank,’’ the Coles group said in a statement on its Facebook page.

‘‘We have wanted to let you know we have instructed 2Day FM to remove all Coles group advertising from the station as soon as possible’’.

Coles posted the statement at about 11.15am. By midday, nearly 2000 people had ‘liked’ it and it had received 874 comments. There are more than 11,000 comments on 2Day FM’s Facebook page about the tragedy.  The Prime Minister and a number of other politicians have made statements, including the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy,and Greens leader Christine Milne.

A spokesman for Julia Gillard said in a statement this morning: ‘‘This is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.’’

POLITICS has already intruded on the suicide of the British nurse who put through a call from the prank calling radio hosts to Kate Middleton's hospital room.

It has thrown the often abstract issue of media regulation into sharp relief. Until now, harm caused by journalists has been mostly chronicled by defamation suits and invasions of privacy. Even with the criminality that sparked the Leveson Inquiry into the standards of the British press - the phone hacking of a murdered school girl's phone by News of the World - nobody was suggesting that the newspaper had killed anybody.

But such claims, directed at 2Day FM presenters who made the prank call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, are widespread on the Twitter and Facebook this morning.

"People are calling for the Australian DJs to be sacked. Sacked?! I'd like to see involuntary manslaughter charges against them," said Dave Turner on Twitter.

Several hours after the news broke of the nurse's death, more than 10,000 comments had accumulated on 2Day FM's Facebook page.

Most express outrage and call for the two DJs to be punished or banned. The chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo - the company that owns 2Day FM - said the two presenters responsible for the prank will not return to their radio show until further notice.

''What gives radio hosts the right to treat people with such disregard just to get a laugh?'' asks Rob Newman in a comment typical of the Facebook thread.

''It is so wrong that people like this are given the power to have their voices on the radio for people to hear them talk their utter rubbish!'' said Lyndell Brownlee.

Authorities are now asking themselves the same questions.

In a statement, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, confirmed there had been a flood of complaints over the prank but said the "decision about whether to investigate the call for possible breaches of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice is one for the independent regulator."

The regulator of online and broadcast media is for now withholding judgment.

''The ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority] does not propose to make any comments at this stage, but will be engaging with the licensee, Today [sic] FM Sydney, around the facts and issues surrounding the prank call,'' said Chris Chapman, chairman of ACMA.

''These events are a tragedy for all involved and I pass on my heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased nurse in London,'' Mr Chapman said.

In May, ACMA found that 2Day FM had breached the ''decency provision'' of the broadcasting code when breakfast presented Kyle Sandilands called a female journalist a ''fat slag'' and a ''piece of shit'' on air.

ACMA made decency a condition of 2Day FM's license for the next five years.

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

This story Prank fallout: First advertiser abandons TodayFM as listeners voice complaints first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.