The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 19th April 2006 - Top of the Pops caught by Licensing Act

The next few weeks' Top of the Pops could be illegal, if the BBC admit a studio audience comprising members of the public in the way they have done for years.

This should be covered by tomorrow's BBC R4 Today programme - although I don't know the exact time.

The lack of an appropriate licence for the TOTP studios came to light as a consequence of a gig by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at BBC TV centre last Saturday (15 April 06). There appears also to have been confusion about what constitutes a private event under the new legislation. The BBC have for years distributed free tickets to the public in advance of the show, making it in their view an 'invitation only event'. But after discussions today with the local authority, Hammersmith & Fulham, the BBC has accepted that under the new legislation a licence under the Licensing Act is now required.

Despite the possible illegality of the next few week's Top of the Pops it looks as though Hammersmith & Fulham will not be taking any legal action. A spokesperson for Hammersmith & Fulham issued a statement which explains the council's position:

"It does appear that the BBC should have applied for a licence for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert because it was apparently open to the public as advertised in the Evening Standard and elsewhere.  We will be looking at whether any action should be taken with regards to this event, but it is important to point out that we received no complaints about the event.  The safety of people attending an event and the wellbeing of the local community, particularly neighbouring residents, are always our primary concerns and we have no evidence that this event threatened that safety or wellbeing.

"A more pressing issue seems to be the historical consideration of Top of the Pops as a private event, attended by an invited audience.  Whilst there is no explicit definition of a "public event" in the new legislation, it does appear that the way tickets are distributed for TOTP makes it a public event. 

"Ultimately the decision over whether or not to apply for a licence lies with the BBC's legal team.  We understand from recent discussions that they agree a licence is required and that they will imminently be submitting an application to the council. 

"The BBC has an excellent track record of running events effectively and sensitively at their Wood Lane studios, and TOTP has been filmed with a live audience there for many years with no negative impact on local residents or the local environment.  Therefore we cannot see a problem with them continuing to do so until their licence is in place, and we will not be seeking to prevent them going ahead this weekend.
"We will, however, continue to monitor events at the BBC and work with them to ensure that they continue to be run in safe and responsible manner."

'Louise Neilan
Spokesperson for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham'

Hamish Birchall