Apparently as the result of a spoof phone call by two Australian disc jockeys to a hospital in London a nurse has died, assumed as I write to have committed suicide, ashamed at having inadvertently allowed the disc jockeys to talk to a colleague about the health of a member of the British Royal family.

A Google search just now for ‘2day fm royal prank’ returns 261,000 results, #royalprank seems to be the Twitter hashtag to use, and there’s very little that can be said about the specifics of the case that hasn’t already.

But the use of the word ‘prank’ in the circumstances is interesting.

2Day FM and its owners have made various statements over the last few days.

On Saturday, before he became more remorseful under the pressure of both listeners and advertisers withdrawing their support, Rhys Holleran, the chief executive of Southern Cross Austereo, 2Day FM’s owners, was quoted as saying

As a craft in radio, [prank calls] have been going for decades and decades…They’re not just part of one radio station or one network or one country, they’re done worldwide.

As usual, the Oxford English Dictionary is enlightening

‘prank.’A malicious trick; a wicked deed; a deception or scheme intended to harm, a hoax. In later use chiefly… A practical joke; a lark; a capriciously foolish act … usu. with modifying word indicating the negative connotations.

Got it? ‘Malicious…wicked…deception…intended to harm…capriciously foolish…negative connotations.’

The use of the word ‘craft’ for prank calls sticks in my gullet, but on one thing Holleran is right.

These calls are widespread, mostly on the more inane sort of shows hosted by the more inane sort of disc jockeys on radio stations similarly inclined. On the occasions I’ve heard them they are usually perpetrated to the accompaniment of exaggerated smug laughter of the ‘How clever I am’ variety.

A prank always has at least a tinge of cruelty about it and is designed to hurt and humiliate, maybe but not always through what passes for humour.

I’m up for actions that speak truth to power and its pomposity but as far as pranks go, count me out.


Hi there, pop pickers.

DJ GovMan is proud to bring you the top ten all time searches that found the HelpGov blog.  Certified by the online auditors at WordPress.com and including all those cover versions where folks have keyed in similar titles, these are the hits on Google and other search engines that brought seekers after truth through to this great site.

In traditional top ten style we blast off at No. 10, holding the suspense for that coveted top No. 1 spot until the end of the show series of posts.

Bubbling under at No. 10 we have two joint equal entries – Happy Birthday and Innovation.

Happy Birthday?  What is this, some social networking site?

No, the prosaic truth is that there’s lots of people out there just searching for a happy birthday.  Some of them found the one occasion HelpGov’s helpful blog mentioned the phrase – in our post Happy birthday Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and anon., an eclectic look at a single day’s Tweets we received (oh, and  feast your eyes on our virtual – and very cheap – birthday cake).

Joint No. 10 Innovation is a more logical HelpGov Top 10 hit.

Way back at the beginning of this blog we said innovation was one of the five issues we’d be discussing.

Search for the word on the blog home page (just there at the top right under the logo) and you’ll find eight posts that mention it, some of which appear in this Top 10.

Others include our post about an unconference (that’s right), the good old Piggly Wiggly Corporation (we kid you not), and a brief note about the FixMyStreet web site and its putative antipodean spin-off It’s Buggered Mate (also true).

There’s a heck of a way to go with Innovation to make it No. 1 – in the public service and this blog – but never let it be said it isn’t fun.

Tomorrow, a stonking  No. 9 in our Top 10.


Yes a plug, for something I have no connection with – the FixMyStreet web site, part of mySociety.org, in turn part of UK Citizens Online Democracy (this gets complicated).  If you’ve not seen FixMyStreet it’s a simple way to report, view, or discuss local problems like graffiti, fly tipping, broken paving slabs, or street lighting.

They seem to be running at 800+ reports a week across the UK. Congratulations Isles of Scilly – no complaints logged on the site.  Commiserations Surrey – 2543 complaints logged.  You’re both reaping the consequences of size (a smarter technowhizz than me would mash up the data with the population mid-year estimates to work out the “best” and “worst” councils).

My only moan might be people who post a complaint about the alleged behaviour of a neighbour (parking, recycling etc.) rather than do the decent thing and have a word with them first.

This is real innovation using the power of the web, and driven from entirely outside the public sector.

PS  – also like the Australian equivalent, It’s Buggered Mate , a site that comes with typical antipodean chutzpah.  Unfortunately, it’s still only a protoype but let’s hope it springs into life soon.