The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 4th June 2008 - Licensing - big screen broadcasts to remain exempt


The government has confirmed that football broadcasts in public places will remain exempt from entertainment licensing, despite the riot in Manchester on 14 May when a giant screen in the city centre failed during a broadcast of the UEFA Cup final between Glasgow Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg:

The government's oft-repeated rationale for entertainment licensing under the Licensing Act 2003 is to prevent crime, disorder, and noise nuisance, to ensure public safety and to protect children from harm. Under the Act, the provision of a playable piano in a public place, or just one unamplified musician, is a potential criminal offence unless licensed.

Confirmation that the government has no plans to review the Act's exemption for big screen broadcasts came in a written answer yesterday to a question from Lord Colwyn, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG).  The answer is a good example of civil servant sophistry, but interesting in that it suggests licensing could not have prevented the disorder:

Lord Colwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the serious violence and disorder that broke out in Manchester when a big screen showing the ITV broadcast of the UEFA cup failed on 14 May, it will review the exemption for broadcast entertainment in the Licensing Act 2003. [HL3715]

Lord Davies of Oldham:

The screening in Manchester of the broadcast of the UEFA cup final in a public place on 14 May only took place with the consent of the local authority and under restrictions agreed with the police. It is therefore difficult to see what added control would have been available had the event been subject to the licensing controls under the Licensing Act 2003, or that such controls would have prevented the disorder that arose.

It remains the Government's position that big-screen television broadcasts in themselves do not cause disorder, but that it is the consumption of alcohol at such events that can lead to problems. Decisions on whether big-screen events should go ahead are the responsibility of the local authority in consultation with the local police, who are involved at an early stage, and event organisers. It is already possible under existing legislation to control consumption and drunkenness in public places. Under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, it is possible for a local authority to designate any area to which the public have access a place where alcohol may not be consumed. It is also an offence under the Licensing Act 1872 to be drunk in a public place. The Government are confident that the police and local authority in Manchester will ensure that safety and security arrangements provide a controlled environment at any future big-screen events.

The Government therefore have no current plans to review the licensing of any form of entertainment not currently covered by the existing licensing laws.


Hamish Birchall