Saldhana took the two radio presenters’ call to King Edward VII Hospital last Tuesday and, believing them to be the British monarch and her son, patched the pair through to another nurse, who revealed details of Middleton’s condition. On Friday, Saldhana was found unconscious and then declared dead at her apartment around the corner from the hospital in central London. [Los Angeles Times]

HAS THE world gone mad?

Two DJs make a prank call, pretending to be royals, which leads to the suicide of a nurse who made a professional mistake, and now the radio hosts are being blamed for actions over which they had no control.

It’s understandable that both Mel Greig and Michael Christian feel awful at what happened. Their interview in the aftermath is certainly contrite, but taking blame is not only outrageous, but borderline irresponsible. That their broadcast has been suspended is an appalling overreaction, though banning prank calls is understandable.

Statement from Southern Cross Austereo:

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII’s Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world.

Chief Executive Officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters, they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances. SCA and the hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy.

The tragic death of Ms. Saldhana is horrifying, but of accepting responsibility for a woman’s choice to take her own life is absurd.

As much as I appreciate the contrition of both DJs, their statements should also come with the refusal to take on the guilt of the tragedy.

Having dabbled in radio myself, it’s impossible to put myself in the position of the DJs, because prank calls were never my thing. However, as someone who’s been in media for 20 years, an entertainer and cultural commentator for over 30, and had many a discussion in public forums and over international airwaves, I also know that my right of free speech is fundamental in the exchange of ideas and entertainment, but nothing I say has the power to force anyone to do anything.

Southern Cross Austereo, Mel Greig and Michael Christian are correct in offering their sympathies and deep sorrow at the news of Jacintha Saldanha’s choice to kill herself. SCA, however, is dead wrong, as are the DJs, in choosing to silence their own voices that should be on air as long as they have an audience and advertisers to support their forum. The importance of dialogue after this sad contagion of events is also critical to the health of talk radio itself.

There is something very wrong about DJs accepting blame for someone’s suicide after a prank call. The precedence SCA is setting is potentially harrowing.

2Day’s FM Hot 30 Show has been canceled, according to a statement released today by SCA.

UPDATE: SCA is now preparing to donate at least $524,000 to a fund created for Saldhana’s family.