Claims that How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? provided advertising for Andrew Lloyd Webber and his production of The Sound of Music have been dismissed by the BBC Trust.
However, the trust said it was concerned about the role of The Sound of Music’s co-producer David Ian as a member of the BBC1 show’s judging panel, and claimed it would have been better for him not to have been included.
The trust’s Editorial Standards Committee was responding to complaints the BBC show could be “considered commercial advertising” for Lloyd Webber and that the role of the show’s judges was “often primarily about the success of the coming West End production and the need to fill seats”.
The committee said it had not upheld the complaints because the programme makers had taken steps to ensure the programme met the requirements of the BBC’s editorial guidelines by retaining “editorial control of the programme” and avoiding “disproportionate prominence for Lloyd Webber and the production”.
It said it would have been impossible to avoid some degree of “product prominence” for The Sound of Music but added there had been an agreed time lag of two months before the transmission of the last programme and the musical’s opening and that no reference to the BBC programme was allowed in any promotional material for the show.
The trust also said the programme “relied” on Lloyd Webber’s participation as an “iconic figure in the British musical theatre” and said the show was “innovative and risk taking” and in keeping with the BBC’s reputation for supporting the arts.
However, the committee admitted it was concerned about the inclusion of Ian, the West End production’s co-producer, in the programme and said: “The committee acknowledged that he provided a wealth of experience, but felt that his experience was not unique and that, while his presence did not breach guidelines, it would have been better for the programme to have had only Andrew Lloyd Webber as a representative of the West End production”.
The committee also said it had been concerned about the “editorial justification” of various comments made throughout the series, including Ian’s statement in the second show that one of his “big concerns” was selling tickets and that he was “thinking with my wallet”.