Australian royal prank call station chief under fire

SYDNEY (AFP) - The head of an Australian radio station at the centre of a tragic prank call targeting Prince William's then pregnant wife Catherine defended himself on Wednesday after describing the incident as "s*** happens".

The call to a London hospital last year by two DJs from Sydney broadcaster 2Day FM pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles led to a nurse's suicide after the story went global.

Indian-born Jacintha Saldanha put them through to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness. Ms Saldanha hanged herself several days later.

At a meeting on Tuesday of shareholders of Southern Cross Media, which owns the radio station, chairman Max Moore-Wilton played down the incident, which saw advertising suspended and the DJs being taken off air.

"These incidents were unfortunate, no doubt about that," he reportedly said when asked if there was a cultural problem at the station responsible for the prank and other incidents. "But in the immortal words of someone whose identity I cannot recall, s*** happens."

British lawmaker Keith Vaz, who has been campaigning on the Saldanha family's behalf, condemned Mr Moore-Wilton's language as an insult to her memory and demanded he apologise, but the chairman on Wednesday refused to back down.

"Mr Vaz should look at the transcript of my comments and take it in context rather than listening to the truncated and sensationalist reports of the Australian media," he told Australian Associated Press.

"What the media commentary focused on was one sentence that I made and presumably that's what Mr Vaz is focusing on."

Mr Moore-Wilton added that the phrase "s*** happens" was "in the eye of the beholder. It's entirely Australian".

"I don't know whether it's British but it's certainly ... been used by many Australians to express a point of view," he said.

"I'm not here to be censored for my use of a word which is common in everyday parlance in Australia. If you don't like it, or the media don't like it, well that's fine."

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