Tuesday Tussle: Why Aren’t Radio Pranks Illegal?
12:30 pm, December 11th | by Sarah Devlin
Sarah: So: the “royal baby radio prank” was already a huge story, and then became even bigger when the staffer who was involved took her own life. Now people are questioning whether or not radio pranks should be allowed to happen (especially because it seems like EVERY show does them). What do you think?
Laura: Well, I think prank calls are dumb. So I agree that they probably shouldn’t be allowed, especially one like that. It was very serious. Radio shows can entertain without hurting other people or stressing them out. At the same time, I think it would be unfair to blame the tragedy on the DJs entirely.
Sarah: That’s true. I don’t like pranks in general, I think they’re mean. It’s interesting to me that basically every radio show does it — I would think there would be some kind of legal liability there?
Laura: I agree.
Sarah: “Why aren’t radio pranks illegal” is not yielding very helpful results on Google. Haha. So new question: do you think it’s ethical to do radio pranks?
Laura: I think dishonestly is unethical. What they did was wrong, and it’s especially not funny of them to do it before a large audience.
Sarah: I think there’s also the issue that the royal baby is this huge media frenzy and everyone wants to be a part of it, and there’s a huge rush to make the best jokes about it and be the most funny. And then you involve a person like Jacintha Saldanha, who probably doesn’t give a sh*t about Twitter or Facebook or memes and is just doing her job, and you make her a part of this global media frenzy. I feel like that’s not an ethical thing to do — it’s like a totally regular person becoming megafamous overnight
Sarah: It’s a total shock to the system and they have no idea how to handle it. I wouldn’t.
Laura: She didn’t ask for any of it; she wasn’t in the public eye.
Sarah: And she became part of the story because of those pranksters. If there had been a way to do a prank while keeping everyone’s anonymity intact, and not getting anyone potentially fired I would think it would be harmless. But she was probaby worried for her job, as she should have been. I am sure the royal family takes that situation super seriously.
Laura: Yeah, but no one can say for certain why she did it, and the kneejerk reaction to blame the DJs feels a little off to me.
Sarah: Yeah…I mean of course they aren’t responsible for her death, but they’re responsible for her embarrassment, certainly.
Laura: Yeah. I read an interesting article about it yesterday. Lilly O’Donnell said that the prank was nothing compared to some of the things British tabloids have tried to get away with. I agree, but still, this ended very badly, and I’m sure the DJs will regret it forever.
Sarah: Yeah. It also makes me feel bad for Kate, because I’m sure she feels terrible.
Laura: I’m sure!
Sarah: To have that kind of horrible thing happen when you’ve only been pregnant for, like, 3 seconds—
Sarah: if I were here I would be thinking “It’s going to be so much worse when the kid is actually born.”
Laura: Well I hate to say it, but maybe it’s better that this happened now and not later…you’d hope people would be more careful after this.
Sarah: That’s true…I feel like this was kind of an emergency and they didn’t have a whole lot of time to kind of set up a super secret operation. I would think after this they’d be like “where is literally the most remote hospital in the United Kingdom, let’s go there.”
Laura: Yeah, really. Sometimes bad situations just can’t be avoided.
Sarah: Going forward, though, do you think radio shows will be more cautious about pranks, or do you think it will be business as usual for everyone?
Laura: They should definitely be more cautious. Besides, it’s immature when 12-year-olds do it. Grow up, guys!
Sarah: What is it about radio that makes everyone want to do pranks? EVERYONE does it.
Laura: Yeah, it’s not cool. And they wonder why no one likes radio anymore!
Sarah: Haha. Yeah I just don’t like pranks…I just get really bad secondhand embarrasment for everyone
Sarah: I guess bottom line is that it brought a lot of publicity to that radio station, but i doubt it’ll do much for them…just because I know it exists doesn’t mean I’ll start listening to Australian talk radio hoping they’ll prank the pope.
Laura: Yeah, it’s not good publicity — it’s an embarrassment.
Sarah: But I guess they must court that, or else why prank people?
Laura: Just don’t prank people! I don’t see why they cant do something else. It’s really not that funny or original.
Sarah: I just had a (probably dumb) epiphany: they can’t just talk the whole time: they have to have bits. So this probably fills the void that would normally be occupied by, like, a radio play. Same with the quiz shows everyone does. Ahh, that explains why it’s so widespread. It’s nice to come to a totally obvious realization about why they exist!
UPDATE: The Australian radio station has vowed to donate the remainder of its ad profits for 2012 to a fund for Jacintha Saldanha’s family.