Who was running the show? ... Mel Greig couldn't get bosses to listen to her concerns about the prank call.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the kinds of ‘pranks’ favoured by commercial radio. From Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald getting his dick out on air to Kyle Sandilands just generally being a dick on air, commercial networks seem to provide a lot of very good arguments for the eradication of the FM bandwidth.
So it’s fair to say that my lack of appreciation for what has become known as the Royal Prank Call was virtually assured at the outset. To briefly recap, in 2012 2DayFM’s presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig placed a phone call to the hospital in which the Duchess of Cambridge was recovering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness.
Impersonating the Queen and Prince Philip, Greig and Christian were patched through to Kate Middleton’s ward by nurse Jacintha Saldanha. They were then successful in getting another nurse from that ward to update them on Middleton’s condition. It was a silly and invasive attempt on the part of 2DayFM which in ordinary circumstances would have been notable only for the baffling fact that it worked.
Unfortunately, it resulted in what so many of these humiliating ‘pranks’ run the risk of doing - it became the catalyst for someone to end their life. Three days after the call was put to air, Jacintha Saldanha was found dead. The public turned on Greig and Christian, with the general narrative holding them directly responsible for Saldanha’s death. (That there were no complaints prior to this, only gleeful jubilation at how two relatively unknown DJs managed to fool the British monarchy, has been conveniently forgotten. How quick people are to absolve themselves of responsibility as consumers of culture, and how eager to simply blame the creators of it.)
Except that the image of Greig and Christian as inhumane monsters with a disregard for broadcasting ethics and standards isn’t strictly true. In an interview with Sunday Night aired on June 1, Greig revealed that she’d attempted to subvert the phone call before it went to air. With the extensive training she’d had, it hadn’t sat right with her that consent to broadcast hadn’t been sought from the two nurses. She approached her bosses to express her concerns and voice her opposition, but she was ignored. This is a version that has been supported by Southern Cross Austereo; since Saldanha’s death, they’ve publicly admitted that, while Greig made suggestions for changes to be made to the recording of the call (including disguising the nurses’ voices), 2DayFM decided to proceed as planned and without alteration.
If there is fault here, how can it be almost universally placed upon the shoulders of a woman who was the only one to voice her opposition despite what appears to be a stubborn hierarchy of management?
After winning a workplace dispute against her employer (who also took complete responsibility for the incident), Greig resigned from the Austereo network. She remains unemployed, and has found it difficult to find new work. The charities she used to represent have dumped her, which is unfortunate but ultimately understandable from their perspective. It would seem that her career in radio is over, or at the very least has been drastically derailed.
But what of her co-host, Michael Christian? The one who didn’t register his discomfort with 2DayFM, who didn’t advise that changes be made to bring the call into line with broadcasting ethics and standards? The one who didn’t get raked over the coals quite as badly as Greig? Well, he was subsequently crowned the network’s ‘best top jock’ and currently helms Austereo’s national drive show.
It may not be true that women are held to a higher standard of propriety in the workplace than their male counterparts, but it’s definitely true that men are able to get away with a greater level of indiscretion. The business world is full of stories of men being given repeat chances to redeem themselves, and not always even after a short but compulsory spell in the naughty corner.
It took less than a year for Channel Nine to try and reinstate Matthew Johns at the network after it was revealed he’d been involved in a pack sex incident which resulted in PTSD and suicidal ideation for the female victim. The AFL is full of men who’ve been forgiven for abusing women, the most galling of which was the one week suspension of Nathan Bock (after he hit his girlfriend while out at an Adelaide nightspot) and his subsequent transfer to the newly formed Gold Coast Suns on a contract reportedly worth up to $600,000 a season.
Mark McInnes resigned as the CEO of David Jones after admitting to the sexual harassment of a female employee - shortly after, he accepted a $5.2 million salary packed to be the Chief Executive of Premier Retail.
Meanwhile, all a woman needs to do to lose her job is get old.
It concerns me that Greig is finding it so difficult to move on in her chosen field of employment, particularly when that industry has had no trouble not only ‘forgiving’ her former co-host but honouring him to boot. I have met her once or twice, and she struck me as all the things that commercial radio seems to want from their female employees - nice, conscientious, blonde.
Of course, I’m being glib - because the other thing Greig impressed on me was her professionalism. I’m no fan of commercial radio as it is, but I’m certainly in favour of having more women like Mel Greig in it and at least attempting to challenge the boorish, lowest common denominator culture that thrives therein.
After all, this is an industry whose male presenters have made light of sexual harassment and 14-year-old rape victims. If there are standards, they’re few and far between. But based at least on her attempt to change the airing of that hoax phone call, at least Mel Greig seems to know they exist.