Austereo pledge to grieving family

THE owners of the radio network at the centre of the royal prank call controversy have vowed to donate all profits from advertising on 2Day FM for the remainder of the year to ''an appropriate memorial fund'' that will ''directly benefit the family of Jacintha Saldanha'', the Indian-born UK nurse who was found dead, apparently by her own hand, last Friday.

Southern Cross Austereo issued a statement late on Tuesday indicating that the suspension of advertising on the Sydney station 2Day FM - part of the Today network that also includes Fox in Melbourne - would end on Wednesday. Any profits from advertising between December 13 and 31 would be donated, and a ''minimum contribution of $500,000 will be made''.

''We are very sorry for what has happened,'' said Austereo chief Rhys Holleran. ''It is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts continue to be with the family. We hope that by contributing to a memorial fund we can help to provide the Saldanha family with the support they need at this very difficult time.''

News of the planned donation comes as the backlash against the radio network continues to be build, especially in Britain, where interviews on Today Tonight and A Current Affair on Monday with the hosts who recorded the prank call were derided for being too ''soft'' and ''sympathetic''.

In the interviews, 2Day FM presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig deflected responsibility for the decision to air the prank call, in which they impersonated Prince Charles and the Queen and extracted medical information about the Duchess of Cambridge from a nurse after Ms Saldanha put the call through, to mysterious but unnamed powers above them.

''Our role is just to record and get the audio and wait to be told whether it's OK or not OK,'' Christian said.

Austereo has steadfastly refused to identify anyone who was responsible for putting the radio prank to air. However, a press release to media on December 7 promoting the prank revealed the names of producers Emily Mills and Ben Harlum, who were credited with playing the role of the corgis.

Austereo confirmed on Tuesday via email that the Hot 30 show's producers, who weren't named, had ''voluntarily been suspended indefinitely'', along with Christian and Greig. Austereo had earlier announced the Hot 30 show has been cancelled.

The suspension of advertising is believed to be costing 2Day FM about $150,000 per day. Although the prank call was played across the network, advertising on other stations has been unaffected.

Austereo has cancelled the annual Christmas party in Sydney, for around 200 people and planned for Wednesday night, out of respect. An autopsy on Ms Saldanha is expected to be held next week.


This story Austereo pledge to grieving family first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.