Updated: 10/23/2013 14:14 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian royal prank call station chief under fire

The head of an Australian radio station at the centre of a tragic prank call targeting Prince William's then pregnant wife Catherine defended himself Wednesday after describing such incidents as "shit happens".


Australian royal prank call station chief under fire

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, hold Prince George outside St Mary's Hospital in London on July 23, 2013

The call to a London hospital last year by two DJs from Sydney broadcaster 2Day FM pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles led to a nurse's suicide after the story went global.

Indian-born Jacintha Saldanha put them through to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness. Saldanha hanged herself several days later.

At a meeting Tuesday of shareholders of Southern Cross Media, which owns the radio station, chairman Max Moore-Wilton appeared to play down the incident, which saw advertising suspended and the DJs taken off air.

"Those incidents were very unfortunate, no doubt about that," he said when asked if there was a cultural problem at the station responsible for the prank and other similar incidents, adding that procedures had been put in place to ensure they did not happen again.

"But in the immortal words of someone whose identity I cannot recall, shit happens."

British lawmaker Keith Vaz, who has been campaigning on the Saldanha family's behalf, condemned Moore-Wilton's language as an insult to her memory and demanded he apologise, but the chairman on Wednesday refused to back down.

"Mr Vaz should look at the transcript of my comments and take it in context rather than listening to the truncated and sensationalist reports of the Australian media," he told Australian Associated Press.

"What the media commentary focused on was one sentence that I made and presumably that's what Mr Vaz is focusing on."

Moore-Wilton added that the phrase "shit happens" was "in the eye of the beholder. It's entirely Australian". 

"I don't know whether it's British but it's certainly... been used by many Australians to express a point of view," he said.

"I'm not here to be censored for my use of a word which is common in everyday parlance in Australia. If you don't like it, or the media don't like it, well that's fine."

Southern Cross Media later attempted to cool the controversy, issuing a statement to clarify the comments.

"Mr Moore-Wilton would like to emphasise that his words should not be read as his or the company’s lack of concern or sympathies towards those who have been involved in the royal prank call issue," it said.

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