The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Circular

Tuesday 25th October 2011 - Oxford hysteria over live music reforms

Oxford City Council is probably the first of many hysterical over-reactions to the government's proposed relaxation of control of entertainment through licensing:

Why do licensing officers and councillors lose their heads over live music?

Two things are clear: they haven't read the small print and are ignorant of the way licensing legislation works.

The DCMS entertainment licensing deregulation consultation, which closes on 03 December, includes a proposal to KEEP noise limiting licence conditions on existing venues where alcohol is sold. See p11 para 2.25 of the DCMS deregulation consultation proposals:

There is in any case a raft of nuisance legislation irrespective of licensing. Contrary to opponents of reform, noise abatement notices can be issued pre-emptively under the Environmental Protection Act. Licensed premises can be given on the spot fines if they cause a noise nuisance between 11pm and 7am.  The police can close licensed premises immediately if they believe a venue is causing a serious problem.  There are other powers available, all detailed in paras. 3.31 onwards in the deregulation consultation document.

Under section s177 of the Licensing Act, many if not most noise conditions on pubs and bars of 200 maximum capacity, such as the operation of a noise limiter, are unenforceable when live music is being performed within certain hours.  That small concession for live music was granted by the previous government in 2003 when the then Licensing Bill was going through Parliament.

Big screen broadcast entertainment, including sport, MTV and other music programmes, is not regulated by entertainment licensing, and in 2005 nearly all pubs and bars were granted automatic permission to play recorded music, by DJs if they want, without any licence conditions.

No doubt this explains why the present government has concluded that separate legislation is adequate to regulate noise for most entertainment events.  The DCMS deregulation impact assessment exhaustively considers the possibility of increased noise nuisance. It concludes that the risk is small and is outweighed by the wider cultural benefit.  See paras 61-90, pp19-25:

But if the government and MPs are swayed by council hysteria about radical entertainment licensing reform, there is always Lord Clement-Jones live music bill which offers an exemption from entertainment licensing for gigs to audiences of up to 200, between 8am and 11pm.  The bill has completed its House of Lords stages, and awaits a 2nd reading date in the Commons.  It is supported by the government and the Opposition.


Hamish Birchall