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Royal prank station to give at least $500,000 to dead nurse's family

An Australian radio station today pledged at least AUD$500,000 (Dh1.9m) to help the grieving family of a nurse duped by a royal prank phone call, after coming under sustained scrutiny over the hoax.

SYDNEY // An Australian radio station today pledged at least AUD$500,000 (US$523,600) to help the grieving family of a nurse duped by a royal prank phone call, after coming under sustained scrutiny over the hoax.

Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who fielded the hoax call from Sydney station 2Day FM to London's King Edward VII Hospital, was found Friday after apparently committing suicide.

The Indian-born mother-of-two put the call through to a colleague, who divulged details of the recovery of Prince William's pregnant wife Kate from severe morning sickness.

The station initially suspended all advertising after the death but said it would resume Thursday, with all profits until the end of the year given to an "appropriate fund that will directly benefit the family of Jacintha Saldanha".

The amount donated would be at least AUD$500,000, it said.

"We are very sorry for what has happened," Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo which owns the station, said in a statement.

"We hope that by contributing to a memorial fund we can help to provide the Saldanha family with the support they need at this very difficult time."

In the wake of the death the company suspended all prank calls across its network and cancelled the show which ran the segment.

But the station remains under renewed pressure to fully explain how its royal prank call was cleared to air after the shattered hosts said they were not ultimately responsible.

In tearful interviews Monday, 2Day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian said that while they made the call to the hospital, the hoax was vetted by others without their involvement.

"It's not up to us to make that decision (to air). We just record it and then it goes to the other departments to work out," said Greig in an emotional interview with Australia's Nine Network.

Christian added: "There's a process in place for prank calls or anything that makes it to air, and you know, that's out of our hands."

Media pressure is growing in Australia for the network to fully explain how the segment made it to air, with the Sydney Daily Telegraph claiming senior management were "dodging responsibility".

In an online report, the ABC's Europe correspondent added: "Some of the British media is asking the question, well, we still don't know who ultimately made that decision."

Holleran has said the station called the London hospital five times to discuss what it had recorded before going to air.

Under Australian regulations, the permission of anyone bearing the brunt of a radio prank must be sought before the call can be broadcast.

But the hospital denied on Monday that anyone within its senior management or media unit were contacted.

Holleran has insisted the appropriate checks were conducted before the pre-recorded segment was broadcast, and defended the presenters in an interview Monday with Australia's Ten Network.

The stunt was vetted by lawyers before being aired but no one else involved in the decision has been named.

The case has triggered demands for tougher regulation of the electronic media although Australia's press regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, has not commented on whether the station broke any rules.

Saldanha's "devastated" husband and teenage children made an emotional public appearance for the first time Monday outside Britain's Houses of Parliament, speaking through lawmaker Keith Vaz, whose family is also from India.

"This is a close family. They are devastated by what has happened. They miss her every moment of every day," said Vaz, alongside Benedict Barboza and the couple's children aged 14 and 16.

"They just want me to say that they are extremely grateful to the public here in the United Kingdom and throughout the world who have sent them messages of condolences and support following the death of Jacintha, a loving mother and a loving wife."

The family later visited the King Edward VII Hospital, which is launching the memorial fund for them.

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