The Federal Court of Australia has found that country’s broadcast regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), can officially determine whether Southern Cross Austereo’s 2DayFM in Sydney breached its license or committed a criminal offense when it aired the Royal prank call in December 2012. ACMA is investigating if by airing the call, 2Day breached the “license condition that states a licensee must not use its broadcasting service in the commission of an offense.”
It is also considering whether in recording the call 2Day breached the Surveillance Devices Act, said the Australian: “If a breach is found, the ACMA could suspend the license of the top Sydney FM station for up to three months or cancel it altogether.”
In the incident, 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian called King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, posing as the Queen and Prince Charles, inquiring about the health of pregnant Duchess of Cambridge. Saldanha transferred the call to a duty nurse who gave out private info about the Duchess, and later committed suicide. A British coronial inquest is investigating the matter
Southern Cross Austereo had asked the court in June to find that ACMA was overstepping its powers to determine a breach of 2DayFM’s license, saying the courts, rather than ACMA, should determine if any laws had been broken.
The judgment was handed down by Justice Richard Edmonds, reported The Australian.
The paper said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman welcomed the decision, saying it paved the way for the regulator to finalize its investigation: “It provides clarity over the operation of the license condition that prohibits broadcasters from using their broadcasting service in the commission of an offense. The Federal Court confirmed that the ACMA has the power to form an opinion as to whether a broadcaster has breached the license condition, independently of any conviction for a criminal offence.”
Southern Cross also released a statement: “We are reviewing the judgment and considering our position. There will be no further comment at this time.”