There are rules here to stop a prank backfiring

Share

A chill went through my bones when I heard about the sad and terrible death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha. I felt so dreadfully sorry that somebody had been made to feel so low, so distressed that they felt that the only solution might be to end their own life. Online, the lynch mobs gathered and the radio station in Australia where the two DJs worked was the target of thousands of angry e-missives demanding that the prank callers be hanged, drawn and quartered – and those were the liberal ones.

As a "pranker" myself (although I loathe that term) I have to admit that I very much had the feeling of "there but for the grace of God go I". How would I feel if somebody to whom I had done something on one of my television programmes had killed themselves as a direct result of it? It would be the end of everything. That's why we have strict rules that insist that everybody we film has to give (and sign) an informed consent form that allows us to use the material we have shot. This has often prevented us from using footage that was comedy gold. The most normal reason for consent being denied is that the person was wandering around with someone that they shouldn't be with and I'm certainly not in the business of home-wrecking.

The main worry when I'm filming is that something could go terribly wrong. I still remember when we were filming a Trigger Happy Christmas sketch. We had called up several chimney sweeps to come (at the rate of one an hour) to sort out our blocked chimney. The joke was that someone was hiding up the chimney dressed as Father Christmas and, when the sweep had a look up there, Santa would come tumbling down and then sprint out of the house.

The first chimney sweep duly arrived, a really sweet-looking man but rather older than we had expected. I could see the headlines at once: "TV show gives local sweep heart attack in sick Santa stunt". We paid him off and told him that we had sorted out the blockage ourselves. He went away, never knowing what had been about to happen. I suppose I could have triggered a stroke when I stood up in a restaurant and started shouting into my big mobile. Would I have been totally responsible then? Probably, but here the line starts to become a bit more blurred.

I actually feel sorry for the Aussie DJs. To be honest, they were not very funny and sound like a pair of arses. But all they were doing was making a stupid phone call that they didn't think would even work, it was so ludicrous. Jacintha Saldanha was a nurse, not a receptionist: it was five in the morning and she simply answered the call and put through what she believed to be the Queen to another nurse, who was the one to reveal the paltry details of Kate's condition. Both the hospital and the Royal Family say that they did not take punitive steps. Prince Charles even joked about it. So I say, leave these DJs alone. They must already be suffering quite staggering levels of guilt that I don't think will ever leave them, and that is punishment enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The landslide vote for gay marriage takes Irish society further away from the Vatican  

Ireland gay marriage: Church's decision not to lead No campaign recognised remarkable new reality

Paul Vallely
The Public Accounts Committee found widespread concern among civil servants that they would be victimised if they spoke out about wrongdoing  

Nikileaks explained: The sad thing about the Nicola Sturgeon saga is that it makes leaks less likely

Jane Merrick
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?