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December 10, 2012

Royal phone-hoax death prompts cancellation of Australian radio show

SYDNEY — The Australian radio station that made a hoax call to a London hospital about the Duchess of Cambridge says it's canceling the show and will cooperate with authorities after a nurse who answered the phone was found dead.

"The radio show won't go ahead into the future," Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of Southern Cross Media Group Ltd., which owns the 2Day FM station, said in a video message on its website. The Hot 30 show, which broadcast the segment, has been terminated, while prank calls have been banned across the company and advertising suspended on the station, Southern Cross said in a regulatory statement Monday.

Southern Cross plunged the most in about 15 months in Sydney trading Monday. Two presenters from 2Day FM impersonating Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles phoned London's King Edward VII hospital last week seeking details about the health of Kate Middleton after she was admitted for acute morning sickness. The nurse who took the call, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead Dec. 7.

"The death is being treated as unexplained," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on their website, updated Dec. 8.

Telstra Corp., the country's biggest phone company, and Wesfarmers Ltd.'s Coles supermarket chain cut advertising on the station amid worldwide debate about the incident. A post about it on the station's Facebook page attracted almost 26,000 comments and an online petition calling for the presenters to be sacked had signatures from Toronto to Cyprus.

"These young DJs are trying harder and harder, and the marketplace has become very competitive," Mark McDonnell, an analyst at BBY Ltd. in Sydney, said by phone. "There's relentless pressure on coming up with something that will be new and fresh and topical."

The DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, never expected to be put through, according to emailed quotes from an interview broadcast Monday night on Nine Entertainment Co.'s "A Current Affair."

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