Going to Federal Court .. 2dayFM claims ACMA has not the power to investigate an allegation that it used its broadcasting service ‘in the commission of an offence’. Photo: Daniel MunozThe stoush between 2Day FM and the broadcasting watchdog over the “royal prank call” investigation will go to the Federal Court in September.
Last month, 2Day FM took legal action against the Australian Communications and Media Authority in an extraordinary attempt to quash its investigation into the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who committed suicide after being pranked by two of its DJs.
The station is arguing that ACMA does not have power to determine if it broke the law by recording and broadcasting the hoax call without permission.
The move came after ACMA told 2Day FM what its preliminary findings were on June 20.
The station is at risk of losing its licence or being suspended if found to have used its broadcasting service “in the commission of an offence”.
2Day’s FM’s aggressive legal action and its statement to media suggest that ACMA, in its preliminary report, found it did break the law.
While ACMA also had the option to specify a licence cancellation or suspension in its report, it is unlikely to have done so. In bigger matters, the watchdog tends to impose such penalties after it delivers its findings.
Yet 2Day FM was spurred into action even without a specific penalty.
“If ACMA found they had breached their licence, that’d be enough for them to go to court,” says one source. “Put it this way: an adverse finding from a government regulator doesn’t help in regards to any future lawsuits.
“But ACMA is unlikely to cancel 2Day FM’s licence. That’s just too drastic. A suspension, on the other hand, is more likely – especially in light of all their other controversies.
“It’s fair to say that when it comes to breaches of taste and ethics, 2Day FM has form.”
The station’s many previous controversies include:
■ A 14-year-old revealing on a lie detector, after being asked about sex, that she had been raped;
■ A contest police claim encouraged dangerous driving;
■ A competition in which a woman was flown from the US and forced to cry and beg on her knees to meet a relative;
■ A prank call in which a DJ impersonated a school official and told a top-ranking student her score was wrong, reducing her to tears;
■ A presenter being offered $50 each time she made a listener cry;
■ Listeners being tricked into believing a popular presenter was dead;
■ A promotion called “Heartless Hotline” in which a parent of a disabled child was forced to argue with another caller to get Easter Show tickets;
■ A promotion in which the parents of a disabled child claimed they did not receive the full amount pledged to them on air;
■ Kyle Sandilands making fun of a disabled baby;
■ Sandilands suggesting Magda Szubanski be “put in a concentration camp” to lose weight;
■ Sandilands calling a female journalist a “fat slag” and threatening to “hunt her down”;
■ A competition in which women were lined up behind two panels – exposing only their vaginas – and requiring a man to identify his girlfriend by her genitals;
■ A competition to find Sydney’s smallest penis;
■ A competition in which a prize was hidden in the body rolls of an obese woman who was branded a “pig”, with footage streamed online;
■ A stunt in which employees competed to see who could masturbate the fastest and produce the highest sperm count;
■ And an intended stunt in which female listeners would compete to impregnate themselves with the sperm of a local celebrity.
The matter will be heard in the Federal Court on September 19.
Even if the court accepts 2Day FM’s argument that ACMA has no authority to determine if it broke the law, the watchdog will still have the power to decide if the station breached the codes of practice.
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