From Candid Microphone (USA, 1947) through all its unpleasant iterations, this bullying under the pretence of "innocent fun" has reached its natural conclusion.
I worked in voice telecommunications for 27 years and you would be surprised what people believe on the telephone, but con artists know. May one dare to hope that this despicable teasing of people for free reality entertainment will end permanently? Then Jacintha Saldanha will not have died in vain.
The excuse of the Australian DJs that they could not have foreseen a suicide is correct in any one case, but they, and their superiors, should have been aware that after a sufficient number of pranks, a suicide would be very likely. They were playing a kind of Russian roulette.
Eye for an eye, or so it may seem. The media and general public's reaction to the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha is predictable and equally deplorable.
Aside from the lack of attention given to the nurse herself, we have chosen to focus on demonising the two Australian DJs and their innocuous prank call as the sole reason for her death.
While privacy laws may have been compromised in the telephone call, the act itself is a staple of popular radio anywhere in the Western media. So why do we find it perfectly acceptable to spew hatred, death threats, and unfair blame on two DJs who had never intended to harm anyone?
The hospital and Palace have confirmed they offered their full support to the Duchess's nurse following the prank call. The same cannot be said about the DJs – Mel Greig and Michael Christian; the public has not recognised its own role in the mental well-being of these DJs.
Mourn Jacintha, but let's also mourn the loss of livelihood and quality of life of the DJs, because if this is indeed the case, we need also to mourn the loss of human decency and compassion.
The primary cause of Mrs Saldanha's tragic suicide was probably not the prank call itself or her reaction to it, but the massive publicity given to it by the press in this country.
While not condoning the actions of the two inexperienced Australian DJs, who have been blamed almost universally for their thoughtlessness, it is apparent that none of the journalists and editors in this country, both print and broadcast, felt that transmitting the story would cause any problems.
The repeated TV and radio news stories almost all included the actual recording, and most print media – including this newspaper – gave a full transcript of the exchange.
Before we rush to condemn the actions of the two young Australians, can we please have confirmation whether any of our journalists or editors considered the impact on the staff at the hospital of repeating the full details of the story?
David J Williams
Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales
It may not have escaped people's notice that the actions of Australian radio presenters are unlikely to be repeated in the UK, because of statutory regulation of television and radio broadcasts. Is this the kind of freedom of speech that David Cameron's failure to extend statutory regulation to the print media is designed to protect?
Just for the record and to inform those who do not know – like the tragic nurse who killed herself – Her Majesty the Queen would never make a call, herself direct, to anyone other than close Royal Family members.
In all other circumstances, her Private Secretary would make the call and get the person on the line, before putting it through to the Queen.
It is a great shame that the nursing Staff at King Edward VII Hospital had not been properly briefed by management prior to the admission of the Duchess of Cambridge or, for that matter, any member of the Royal Family. It is a serious and regrettable tragedy for this young mother.
Keith Stuart Bales
Bibra Lake, Western Australia
Paying the earth for its resources
The Chatham House report on dwindling resources (report, 10 December) is simply evidence of the inherent futility of unsustainable growth. Dwindling resources, harmful emissions and climate change are all consequences of a capitalist system in which the most bountiful stakeholder, Planet Earth, is not represented.
If the planet were represented by an organisation such as the IMF, to charge those who take resources from it and pay back those who return wholesome resources to it, we would have a system which could be made sustainable even when growing. It would simultaneously lead to diversity and employment, especially at local levels where work is in short supply and where huge amounts of resources are otherwise wasted (that is, at the point of consumption).
This idea may at first seem unrealistic, but unless something like it is implemented in the short to medium term there is unlikely to be a long term for anyone. The approach could be introduced with very low but progressively increasing charges for resources and payments which encourage recycling. In addition the planet is an immense asset and potentially a source of borrowing which exceeds even the largest bank.
Given the current sickness of global finances and widespread unemployment, now is a good time to introduce this concept.
Dr David Rhodes
What Voltaire never said
It was disappointing to see Howard Jacobson, in one of his better articles (8 December), recycle the myth that Voltaire said: "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre, in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of what she took to be Voltaire's beliefs on freedom of thought and expression. They are not found anywhere in Voltaire's works or correspondence.
His struggles against injustice and for toleration were not a demand for a free-for-all. Indeed, his position appears to have been fairly close to Howard's.
Don't forget art and design
We urge the Government to include art and design as a "sixth subject pillar" in the new English Baccalaureate.
The Government has just closed its consultation on the new qualification, one which we fear will lead to a decline in the number of young people able to study these subjects. Since the E-Bacc was introduced as a performance measure in schools in 2010 the numbers taking GCSE arts subjects have declined.
This concerns not only the Crafts Council but also many national bodies working collectively for the arts in the UK, including Visual Arts UK and CraftNet. The creative industries in the UK are world-leading and contribute significantly to the economy.
Learning art, craft and design skills has a range of educational benefits. It fosters creative thinking and innovative learning, aids cognitive development and helps to develop problem-solving skills. These, in turn, provide a solid foundation for a number of professions, including engineering, manufacturing, medicine and software design.
Not only will individual students suffer, but the national and international economy will be weaker if these proposals go ahead unamended.
Executive Director, Crafts Council, London N1
Types of tax avoidance
Roger Earp (Letters, 10 December) accuses critics of Starbucks of hypocrisy, since they sometimes make use of the kind of tax breaks that governments create for positive social purposes, such as encouraging us to save via ISAs. No such public benefit arises from Starbucks' corporate tax-avoidance dodges, which Earp describes as "perfectly legal" and (therefore, somehow) "ethical".
He concludes, bizarrely, that protesters are "every bit as immoral as the coffee chain".
Congratulations to Nick Haward for his collection of gadgets (letter, 11 December). I also have a mighty collection, including a pineapple corer (yet to be tested), two cherry stoners, and a nifty tool for making curly strings of cucumber. I, too, have a yoghurt maker, which I love to use, and would suggest that Nick might like to put his on the many websites you can use to give your unwanted items to others who can use them. Anyone want one of my cherry stoners?
How does the fact that a woman in her sixties who is taking a case to the United Nations about wind farms in Scotland merit the headline "Grandmother's challenge" (11 December)? There is no mention of her grandchildren in the article – her reproductive history has no relevance. Are we supposed to be impressed that she can still manage to do this – when she is a grandmother and 69! This is lazy, patronising journalism.
Poor Jeeves (Letter, 8 December) would surely remain far from being gruntled, were he to espy on the very same page the suggestion to "drop the soft G". A jentleman's personal jentleman? Better a butler...
Christmas reminder: If you want sprouts the way you had them as a kid, this is the final date you need to put them on to boil.
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