Updated: 10/04/08
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The Licensing Bill - Message 7

At last the media is taking an interest in the proposed new regulations covering live music performance. Even the venerable Herts . Essex Observer this weeks carries a story : Alarm Sounded Over Tougher Music Licensing Laws (Jan 23, page 35).

This article quotes the Uttlesford District Council's Arts Development Officer. He confirms that - despite what the Government is continuing to claim to the contrary - the new legislation WILL cover performances in churches, private parties, corporate hospitality and openair bandstands as well as pubs and venues. Although he doesn't mention further examples, they include schools, rehearsal rooms, and just about anywhere music is performed.

This is interesting because while the Government in the shape of the DCMS ( Department for Culture, Media and Sport) is claiming otherwise, the very people who will have to implement the new legislation, namely local Councils, are confirming what critics of the proposed legislation have been saying all along - that far from liberalising the licensing regime it makes it far worse.

One of the most active critics of the Bill is Hamish Birchall of the Musicians Union, and rightly so - a lot of peoples' livelihoods are at stake. He has assembled an army of influential supporters - barristers, and members of the House of Commons and House of Lords of all parties - who are critical of the way the government has framed this piece of legislation. And yet Hamish is being demonised by Kim Howells, Culture Minister, as being a scaremonger and fantasist. Why? Howells - whose brief specifically covers "Broadcast" - seems totally unwilling to listen to any contrary viewpoint and that includes the Arts Council of England.

Oh, by the way, under the proposed new regulations, broadcast entertainment is exempted. So while a pub cannot put on a solo singer/guitarist without a license, it can install a widescreen TV and a massive sound system without requiring an entertainment license.

If you have not already done so, please write to your MP voicing your concern about The Licensing Bill. It's easy to do by going to www.faxyourmp.com. It doesn't need a long letter, just something to register that you are deeply concerned about the implications of the Bill.