The Live Music Forum


Friday 11th November 2005 - Government Found Guilty of Misleading Claims on Live Music

See below for a transcript of this morning's BBC R4 Today item about the 1.7 million gig claim for 'bars, clubs and restaurants' found to be misleading by the Market Research Standards Board (MRSB).

A few caveats first, however:

The BBC mistakenly called the MRSB a 'government body' in the opening commentary. The Market Research Society is in fact an independent professional body 'that exists to set and enforce the ethical standards to be observed by research practitioners'. See their website:
MRSB only has power to discipline its members, who are individual market researchers, not companies or corporations.
A MORI employee was disciplined essentially because MORI has joint responsibility with DCMS for any press releases or publications including the live music survey findings, and the 1.7 million gig claim as it was originally made should not have been published without qualification.
The fact that DCMS later covertly altered the former licensing minister's quote in the 25 August 2004 press release is not made clear in this piece. The MRS confirmed to me yesterday that alteration of the minister's quote was NOT included in their disciplinary action. How it came to be done is now the subject of a further MRSB investigation, following another complaint from me, and is likely to be the subject of Parliamentary questions.
In November 2004 and January 2005, DCMS ministers were questioned in Parliament about the 1.7 million estimate relating to 'bars, clubs and restaurants'. No apologies were offered, despite the fact that in a letter to me dated 10 December 2004 DCMS Licensing Implementation and Communications Manager Jason De Bono wrote: 'I can confirm that the 1.7 million estimate was for the whole sample. The reference to "bars, clubs and restaurants" made by Richard Caborn was shorthand for this - there was of course no intention to mislead.'
I did bring other complaints about the validity of the survey, but the 1.7 million live gig claim was top of my list. The MRSB has not recommended disciplinary action in relation to my other complaints, but nor have they yet explained why they were not upheld.

TRANSCRIPT OF BBC Today broadcast - Friday 11 November 2005 - 6.51-7.54am approx

DCMS 1.7 million live gig claim for bars, clubs and restaurants was misleading.

EDWARD STOURTON: The time now is 9 minutes to 7. The Market Research Standards Board, the government body which is charged with running checks on the accuracy of market research, has ruled that one of the government's own press releases was misleading. The release dealt with the impact of the new Licensing Act on live music in small venues, the subject of much grumbling among musicians. Nicola Stanbridge reports:

[background jazz fade in]

NICOLA STANBRIDGE: For ten years this little restaurant called La Brocca in Hampstead has had a reputation for live jazz music, acting as a springboard for young musicians. Under the old Licensing Act, two musicians could play without an entertainment licence. Under new rules the venue needs one. But the cost is prohibitive, and La Brocca is closing its doors to musicians, one of many examples this programme has heard of. Its owner is David Locke.

DAVID LOCKE: It's expensive to get a licence, and live music in bars and pubs and restaurants is not profitable. It's a philanthropic thing really to put jazz or folk music in a pub. You know, to have to go to a lot of cost to get a music licence, you know, to do various modifications - all sorts of stuff - just isn't viable and people won't do it because they can't afford to do it.

NICOLA STANBRIDGE: This is at odds with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which has always insisted the new Licensing Act is an easy box-ticking way of getting a public entertainment licence, making it much easier to put on music. [jazz fades out] Last August the minister responsible, Richard Caborn, said there was a flourishing music scene: 'an estimated 1.7 million gigs were staged in the last year alone in bars, clubs and restaurants whose main business isn't putting on live music'. That was based on a MORI survey, but musicians disputed the scene was flourishing, insisting it was vulnerable and likely to worsen under the new Licensing Act. One musician, Hamish Birchall, decided to add the sums up for himself.

HAMISH BIRCHALL: It looked as if 1.7 million was rather high for bars, clubs and restaurants. I studied MORI survey's full report and it has a table showing seven different venue categories. You get a figure of about 1.7, 1.8 million for the WHOLE survey, not for a sub-set of three venue categories.

NICOLA STANBRIDGE: Hamish Birchall filed a complaint with the Market Research Standards Board which agreed the statement was indeed misleading. The 1.7 million related to the whole sample surveyed. The Board recommended a footnote be added and disciplinary action. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport did change the press release, broadening the 1.7 million number of gigs to include 'other venues'. In a statement they said this was not a fundamental change, or a change of meaning, and as such there was no need to issue a new press notice. They said they didn't set out to misinterpret the research or mislead the public. And MORI concurred, adding in a statement that the original press release did include an executive summary of the MORI research, and a breakdown of all the venues surveyed, and that other complaints by Mr Birchall were not upheld. The Liberal Democrat Culture spokesman Don Foster says it raises questions about future government statements.

DON FOSTER: The government having been rapped over the knuckles for misleading the public in a press release should at the same time be acknowledging that they made a mistake and should be apologising for doing it. We need to be much more vigilant in the future about what this government is saying, whether it's the Iraq dossier, burying bad news, or whether it's even about the state of live music in this country.

SARAH MONTAGUE: Nicola Stanbridge reporting. The time now 6 minutes to 7.


Hamish Birchall