Last week royal prank DJ Michael Christian has been given an award in an internal competition that recognizes his company’s “best in the land”. He was awarded a trip to Los Angeles as part of his prize.
Although Christian and fellow DJ Mel Greig have been linked to the suicide of a nurse after making a prank call to a London hospital, the folks at Southern Cross Austereo think he’s one of the best employees they have. If he is the best employee they have, one can only wonder about their worst or even average ones. It looks like that prank – the act of colossal bad taste, insensitivity and arrogance – was no fluke after all.
Australian disc jockey Michael Christian told an interviewer that “Prank calls are made every day on every radio station in every country around the world, and they have been for a long time, and no one could have imagined this to happen.”
He was talking about the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was on the receiving end of a prank call he made with co-host Mel Greig. Saldanha felt so humiliated by falling for the ruse that she took her own life.
Is humiliating and degrading others a laughing matter? Or are there other ways of ‘entertaining’ audience without inflicting unnecessary harm to others?
As Bruce Weinstein points out, the ethical principle at the heart of that matter is simple: Do No Harm. We associate this principle with health care professionals, and rightly so: We’d like our physicians to make us better. But at the very least, we can expect that they won’t make us worse. Yet Do No Harm applies not just to health care providers but to everyone else. Although prank calls are part of radio programs around the world, the public still has a right to demand that media professionals avoid doing or saying things that would cause others to feel humiliated or degraded. Therefore letting the person who took the call know that the whole thing was a joke is a common practice with prank calls.
There are lots of good entertainment shows that ‘do no harm’. Let’s take as an example Ellen Degeneres – one of my favourite comedians. Every day Ellen ends her show with thanking her guests and then saying “Be kind to one another, bye”. So entertainment shows can by kind as well as fun after all. I wish one day entertainment industry all over the world adopts “do no harm” principle in their work and starts rewarding and encouraging ‘kind fun’, that spreads kindness and compassion. Let’s be kind with our laughter.