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The Department of Culture, Media and Sport plan to reduce the red tape involved in putting on live entertainment.

In the foreward to the consultation the Minister for Tourism and Heritage John Penrose says:

At the moment, the law and regulations which require some (but not all) types of entertainment to be licensed are a mess. For example, you will need a licence if you want to put on an opera but not if you want to organise a stock car race. A folk duo performing in the corner of a village pub needs permission, but the big screen broadcast of an England football match to a packed barn-like city centre pub does not. An athletics meeting needs licensing if it is an indoor event, but not if it’s held outdoors. A free school concert to parents doesn’t need a licence, but would if there is a small charge to raise money for PTA funds or if there are members of the wider public present. A travelling circus generally needs a permit whereas a travelling funfair does not. A carol concert in a Church doesn’t need a licence, but does if it is moved to the Church Hall. There are many other examples where types of entertainment are treated differently for no good reason – the distinctions are inconsistent, illogical and capricious.

But they cause other problems too. Whenever we force local community groups to obtain a licence to put on entertainment such as a fundraising disco, an amateur play or a film night, the bureaucratic burden soaks up their energy and time and the application fees cost them money too. Effectively we’re imposing a deadweight cost which holds back the work of the voluntary and community sector, and hobbles the big society as well.

Equally importantly, the various musicians’ and other performers’ unions are extremely concerned that all these obstacles reduce the scope for new talent to get started, because small-scale venues find it harder to stay open with all the extra red tape. There is also evidence that pubs which diversified their offer to include activities other than drinking were better able to survive the recession. Making it easier for them to put on entertainment may therefore provide an important source of new income to struggling businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Last but not least, laws which require Government approval for such a large range of public events put a small but significant dent in our community creativity and expression. If there’s no good reason for preventing them, our presumption should be that they should be allowed.

So this is a golden opportunity to deregulate, reduce bureaucratic burdens, cut costs, give the big society a boost and give free speech a helping hand as well. Our proposals are, simply, to remove the need for a licence from as many types of entertainment as possible. I urge you to participate in this consultation so that we can restore the balance.

The requirement for a licence, under the 2003 Licensing Act for an array of activities where the audience is under 5,000.

Christine Payne, General Secretary of Equity, welcomes move:

"We commend these proposals as a visionary solution to a long running problem in the live entertainment sector. Freeing up venues to put on plays, live music, dance performances and film will provide a much needed boost for our communities, it will help to create more opportunities for artists and will enable young performers to get the exposure needed to kickstart their careers.”

Of course getting rid of these unnecessary licences will also reduce the burden on local government. Over 133,000 premises have some form of regulated entertainment provision granted on their licence. Premises that currently hold a licence only for the activities that were formerly classed as regulated entertainment – such a some church halls – won't need a licence at all.

Finally, on a very practical local level, there are also at least 900 areas listed on the DCMS licensed public land register which represent areas licensed by local authorities solely for regulated entertainment purposes – such as town centres, promenades, high streets, parks, gardens and recreation grounds. Licensing authorities would also no longer have to process and oversee over
12,500 licences per annum for which they do not receive a fee, such as village halls and for certain performances held in schools. Together this is at least 13,400 community and non-commercial premises per annum that would no longer be subject to a licensing regime.

Excellent news. I'm particularly pleased that among other things the proposals promise a return to unregulated Punch and Judy.

2 comments for: Trade union praises Government plan to cut red tape

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