The BBC Trust has concluded that comments made by veteran broadcaster Terry Wogan relating to the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster breached the corporation’s guidelines.
After playing the 1974 disco track Rock the Boat on his Radio 2 show on 22 January, Wogan told listeners “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,” he added.
In a later conversation with newsreader Alan Dedicoat, the 73-year-old presenter said: “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.”
News reports at the time put the death toll from the sinking of the Italian liner at 11, while the search for survivors was still ongoing.
The BBC Trust investigated Wogan’s comments following complaints from seven listeners, concluding that there was a “real risk of causing offence” and that BBC editorial guidelines had therefore been breached.
The Trust recognised that Wogan’s remarks were “characteristically self-deprecating” and that he had been “joking about his own lack of bravery rather than the victims of the tragedy itself,” concluding that there had been no deliberate intention to cause offence.
However, the Trust found that “there was a real risk of causing offence and in this context the guidelines had been breached.”
The committee said the breach had “not been so great as to warrant a public apology taking into account various factors” and ruled that no further action was necessary.