When deejays cross the line

This should — but, sadly, probably won’t — serve as a wakeup call to all the insipid radio morning shows whose appeal is the outrageous stunts the morning teams do for the audience that craves them.

Earlier this week, a radio station called the London hospital where Prince William’s wife was being treated for her morning sickness. The show host pretended to be the queen, duping a nurse who dished all of the royal health secrets.

That’s some funny stuff.

The nurse who sent the call to the ward has apparently killed herself.

  • jon

    Impersonation to find out confidential information?

    Isn’t that called fraud?

    Broadcasting confidential health information on the radio, here in the states that a violation of HIPPA regulations, in the UK that have even tighter controls on personal health information.

    Seems like this DJ should be taken to court over the issue with out even having any deaths involved.

    With news corp. having spent time in front of parliament in the UK over the phone hacking scandal you’d think that people who might represent any part of the media (even shock jocks) would be more hesitant to break the law in search of a “story.”

  • Britt Robson

    I am of course saddened that the nurse felt so remorseful that she took her own life and believe that the repugnant radio folks deserve all of our scorn.

    But it is precisely when we are so irate about an emotional and dastardly circumstance that we need to be careful about what remedies to impose to prevent it from happening in the future.

    As someone who is close to be a free speech absolutist, I worry about the blowback on things like this. For example, how is this that much different than the reporter who called up Governor Scott Walker pretending to be one of the Koch brothers and being told all of Walker’s personal opinions about the way he wanted to proceed with his union-busting tactics?

    So, get pissed, but think twice before you go too far toward getting even.

  • Bob Collins

    True, but I would remind people that broadcasters do not get equal 1st Amendment protections that other media do.

  • Christin

    There is a huge difference between pretending to be someone to get a poitical strategy and pretending to be family to get private medical information.

  • Albatross

    While the nurse’s story, like any suicide, is tragic, I think it’s a bit much to make the jump to “and this stunt caused it.” Someone who will do such a thing for any reason is someone who will do such a thing for, literally, any reason. Maybe these deejays shouldn’t play music for fear that one of their songs will compel someone to off themselves.

    The fact is, this nurse was in a fragile emotional state and needed help long before this ill-conceived little idea.

  • Drae

    @ Britt Robson –

    What’s the difference? Uh – is Governor Walker’s receptionist dead? Because that’s a pretty big difference.

    As for free speech rights – I can’t speak to the laws of the UK or Australia, but in my book, personal and professional integrity are more important. The Duchess has medical and personal privacy and the media people should have a code of conduct their company provides. If the radio station doesn’t take steps to punish these DJs, then they have no shame or integrity as a media outlet. This “prank” was disturbing before this nurse’s suicide, but now it’s downright disgusting.

    Perhaps this is professional behavior for “shock jocks” but radio stations might be about to learn their limits because my guess is the nurse’s family is about to launch a very big lawsuit.

  • Bob Collins

    // The fact is, this nurse was in a fragile emotional state and needed help long before this ill-conceived little idea.

    Ah, interesting factoid. I hadn’t seen that anywhere. Link?

  • Disco

    I would be skeptical of anyone who mis-writes it as “HIPPA” instead of the correct “HIPAA.”

    HIPAA covers providers and insurers, not radio stations. It would be the hospital that messed up in this case.

  • BJ

    Since neither the Hospital or Radio Station are in the US the HIPAA law, 1st amendment of US Constitution, or FCC rules would seem to apply or be of much relevance.

  • Cara

    Disco:

    I agree; HIPAA is for insurance companies and health care organizations. We can’t stop folks from trying to get information but we can stop giving it out. Having said that, I worked in a hospital from the dawn of HIPAA and finally gave up correcting other employees for the mistake of writing HIPPA.

  • Britt Robson

    @Bob Collins

    Helpful to know there is a difference, and more stringent controls, on broadcasters. Thanks.

    @Drae

    If the issue is whether or not a person has a free speech right to impersonate or otherwise mislead someone as to their real identity in order to obtain information–and that is the issue I was arguing–then the fate of the person who provides the information is not relevant. If you can prove it caused the nurse’s death, then that is the crime in and of itself.

    On the other hand, I agree wholeheartedly that the employer of these folks has every right (in my moral code a duty), to take action against the broadcasters. Just because their behavior can be legally protected doesn’t mean it was right, just or otherwise deserving to be free of penalty. But, to repeat, I think they should be penalized regardless of whether the nurse committed suicide or not.

  • Drae

    @Britt Robson – Thank you for clarifying your point. While I agree with you that an American has the free speech right to impersonate others in order to gain information, I still find it unprofessional and unethical in terms of the media – in particular, the news media.

    So, with that being said, I think the Walker stunt was more unethical and the Duchess incident is immoral. The press should not undermine itself by playing stunts, and the celebrity media should leave the medical conditions of celebrities (and royals) alone.

    Thanks for a thought provoking conversation.

  • Lily

    As a Registered Nurse, I wonder how much support the hospital gave this nurse after this incident? It is likely that she was blamed and, given the connection to the Royals, lost her ability to cope. That said, this is all conjecture.

    May she rest in peace.