The BBC Trust has said that Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 show breached BBC guidelines, after the presenter made light of the Costa Concordia tragedy.
Nine days after the cruise ship ran aground in January, Wogan made a joke after disco track Rock The Boat was played on his two-hour live Sunday morning show, Weekend Wogan.
As the song faded, he mused on whether it had been an appropriate song and joked about the ship’s captain and wanting to be the first in the lifeboat if the BBC went down.
Frankly if I had my time over again, and given the boating tragedy in Italy, I mightn’t have picked that as an opening song.
Rock The Boat, argh, Captain Coward.
Later, after the news bulletin he said to the announcer:
I don’t know about you … but I’ll be the last to leave the BBC.
Not sinking is it? Me first, never mind the women and children, I’m not even Italian.
The comments were referred to the BBC Trust after the Editorial Complaints Unit ruled that they did not warrant a public apology.
The trust’s Editorial Standards Committee, which acts as the final arbiter of appeals if complainants are unhappy with the way their initial complaints have been dealt with by BBC management, said it was surprised that there had not been an on-air apology. The trust said that Wogan’s remarks were:
characteristically self-deprecating, joking about his own lack of bravery rather than the victims of the tragedy itself,
In this context the committee did not believe there had been any intention to cause offence. The committee, however, did conclude that there was a real risk of causing offence and in this context the guidelines had been breached. The committee expressed surprise that the BBC did not apologise on-air on the day.
However the BBC Trust ruled out the need for further sanction.