The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 9th August 2006 - The strange case of the riderless press release

DCMS has once again covertly rewritten history. Their live music survey press release in which a minister's quote was later secretly altered is again being presented as the original. A rider notifying that changes had been made, added by DCMS after a question was raised in Parliament, has disappeared.

In October last year, a key quote in the DCMS MORI live music survey press release, first published on 25 August 2004, was ruled misleading by the Market Research Society (MRS). Richard Caborn, then licensing minister, claimed:

'From the Beatles to Blur we have a live music heritage to be proud of. This survey shows that heritage is alive and well with a flourishing music scene - an estimated 1.7 million gigs were staged in the past year alone in bars, clubs and restaurants whose main business isn't putting on live music.'

As it turned out, the 1.7m estimate applied to the whole survey, not to a sub-set of venues. MRS calculated that the correct gig estimate for bars, clubs and restaurants was 1.3 million, a reduction of about 24%.

In the wake of the MRS ruling, it emerged that on 21 October 2005 DCMS had covertly altered the minister's quote, archived in the press release section of the DCMS website. The phrase 'and other venues' had been inserted after 'restaurants'. It looked as if no misleading statement had been made. Other changes were made to the 'Notes to editors' section. But the document was being passed off as the original, with no indication anywhere that changes had been made or why.

After representations by the Statistics Commission and a question in Parliament, DCMS agreed to add a rider to the press release notifying that changes had been made. DCMS protested that the changes were 'minor'. Significantly, however, they did not mention the downward revision by MRS to 1.3 million gigs a year for bars, clubs and restaurants. A rider was added to the press release on Thursday 22 December 2005, notifying that changes had been made as a result of an MRS investigation.

Last Monday, 07 August, DCMS launched a new website. The rider notifying the changes made to the live music survey press release has disappeared. For the press release with the rider (this is 'cached content' from Google):

For the new, rider-less version:

Hamish Birchall