Hospital prank: High Court ruling means Sydney radio station could have its broadcasting licence suspended

King Edward VII’s Hospital London. Photo: Getty Images

The High Court of Australia has ruled in favour of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in an appeals hearing over the infamous 2DayFM royals prank call.

The ACMA originally asserted that the Southern Cross Radio Austereo (SCA) station had breached New South Wales surveillance and broadcasting laws.

2DayFM sought legal action against the ACMA in the Federal Court and was successful in its claim that the media authority had no power to rule if a criminal offence had been committed.

However, the High Court overturned the ruling and said the ACMA was within its rights to issue “administrative determination” that radio presenters Mel Grieg and Michael Christian broke the law when they were impersonating the British royal family.

The appeals court said the ACMA was not exercising judicial power.

The decision means the ACMA could potentially suspend 2DayFM’s broadcasting licence.

In a statement released following the decision SCA said the High Court’s ruling gives the ACMA the ability to “judge the criminal guilt of broadcasters”.

“It is wrong for the broadcasting regulator to be able to decide whether a commercial broadcaster is guilty of committing an offence against an Australian state, territory or commonwealth law including laws where ACMA has no expertise, experience or jurisdiction,” it said in the statement.

“Southern Cross Austereo will join with other broadcasters in seeking to have the law changed as a matter of urgency.”

Free TV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia have joined with SCA in denouncing the decision.

In 2012, the duo managed to obtain details about the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge when they called London’s King Edward VII Hospital pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles.

The nurse who took the call committed suicide.

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