Tragedy ends radio wind-ups

Paul Gough
Paul Gough

A FORMER town DJ admits radio wind-ups will be a thing of the past after a nurse died following an Australian station’s attempts to hoax her into thinking they were the Royal family.

Jacintha Saldanha was found dead at her home in London on Friday, just 48 hours after answering a phone call at the hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness.

Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian were behind the hoax call, with their tearful apologies being beamed across the globe yesterday.

Town man Paul Gough, who worked for Century Radio from 1994-2004, used wind-ups as a regular feature on his Goffy in the Morning show and brought out four compilation CDs featuring many of his calls.

But Paul, who now runs town-based publicity firm Goffy Media, thinks radio stations will now prevent staff from carrying out similar stunts in the wake of last week’s tragedy.

Paul, who lives in the Naisberry Park area of town, said: “This whole story is tragic, and everyone’s sympathy has to go to the family of the poor nurse.

“I can’t imagine what the two DJs are going through, they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives.

“When I used to do the wind-ups on Century, listeners used to contact me and ask if I would ring their mate and stitch them up. It was always things like saying their wedding venue had double booked, stuff which was personal to them.

“Once it was recorded, I would always get the ‘victim’ to give consent to have it played on air. If they weren’t happy, it wasn’t used.

“It was listener generated, and that is completely different to what has happened in Australia.

“I think it’s important not to generalise the wind-up and a hoax call.

“There were often occasions where I would refuse to do a wind-up, sometimes people had ideas which crossed the line.

“But that was my decision back then, we’re talking nearly 10 years ago.

“Thousands have people have been happy to contact radio stations over the years to put family and friends forward as victims of pranks.

“It’s much wider than the radio presenter picking the phone up and making the call, the calls have initially been inspired by the public, and viewer or listener figures would suggest that lots of people were happy to watch or hear it unfold .

“But after what has happened over the last few days, I’m certain this will change the way radio stations operate. Ofcom will get involved as the regulating body, and while the Leveson report will change the way the written media operates, this will have a massive impact on the radio sector.”

Paul added: “These wind-ups or hoaxes have been going on for years, and they have proved to be hugely popular.

“Noel Edmonds started it all in the 1970s on his Radio 1 show, then he did similar things on TV with Noel’s House Party and the hidden cameras.

“We had Beadle’s About when Jeremy Beadle used to blow people’s cars up and all sorts, and 18 million people used to watch it. It was the same with Game for a Laugh in the 1980s and Candid Camera long before that.

“There’s not a single person anywhere who could have predicted how this would turn out, it is just a complete tragedy.”

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