DCMS response to the consultation on the deregulation of 'regulated entertainment'

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The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has recently published their response to their Consultation in 2011 on the 'deregulation' of 'Regulated Entertainment' under the Licensing Act 2003.

The recommendations are somewhat 'watered down' from the original proposals in the consultation, but will still see a fairly radical change in the licensing regulation of entertainment in pubs, clubs and other entertainment venues in England and Wales.

Summary of Government's proposals

The performance of amplified live music, recorded music, dance and plays will be deregulated or suspended between 08.00 and 23.00 for audiences of less than 500 people.

Indoor sports will be deregulated between 08.00 and 23.00 for audiences up to 1000.

Films will not at present be deregulated although there will be a further consultation on partial deregulation for community film exhibitions.

Boxing and wrestling will remain regulated with the exception of Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling (Olympic style). For clarification, 'mixed martial arts' and 'cage fighting' events will be included as categories of regulated entertainment.

Irregular dance performance that may be classified as 'sexual entertainment' will remain regulated.

Additional proposed exemptions

The Government also intends to deregulate various entertainment activities that take place in certain public and community premises and other venues. In summary, the exemptions will apply to:

  • Local authorities; hospitals; nursery and school premises (other than Higher Education) where the event is hosted by the organisation and takes place on their premises – All entertainment activities (query films?) exempted between 08.00 and 23.00, with no audience limits.
  • Local authorities; hospitals; nursery and school premises (other than Higher Education) where event organised by others with their permission – Live and recorded music exempted between 08.00 and 23.00, for audiences up to 500
  • Community premises (church and village halls; community centres, etc) – Live and recorded music exempted between 08.00 and 23.00, for audiences up to 500.
  • Circuses – Live and recorded music; plays; dance and indoor sport exempted between 08.00 and 23.00, with no audience limits.

Rationale for the proposals

In their 2011 consultation, the Government had expressed their view that the regulation of entertainment within the Licensing Act 2003 was over-bureaucratic and placed an unnecessary and heavy administrative burden on the voluntary sector, local communities and businesses.

They said that in most cases, adequate protections are already provided by existing legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990; Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the Noise Act 1996. In the case of premises licensed to sell alcohol, it was intended that existing conditions would still apply and the threat and use of review powers under the Licensing Act 2003 would provide sufficient protection to communities.

Around 1350 responses were received to the consultation from various organisations and individuals. In 'watering-down' their proposals from the initial consultation, the Government said that they had taken account of the concerns raised about events attracting large audiences and those continuing after 23.00 and this was reflected in their proposed amendments.

Timescale for implementation

The Government have indicated that they intend to implement the proposals "as soon as possible" during 2013. Some of the changes will require amendments to primary legislation and so these will be subject to the Parliamentary timetable.

Commentary

The proposals once implemented will benefit a wide-range of organisations that wish to provide relatively small-scale entertainment without alcohol sales and currently require authorisation under a Premises Licence or a Temporary Event Notice.

The proposed exemption for local authority run events could mean that 'street carnivals' or similar events will not require specific licensing authorisation, as there is no audience limitation for events hosted by them. However, this will need to be clarified as it will depend on the definition of events that take place "on their premises" when the detailed proposals are set out in a draft Bill.

The proposals for live and recorded music would mean that the exemptions for audiences up to 200 in on licensed premises, which were only recently introduced by the Live Music Act 2012, would be increased to 500. Unamplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00, wherever this takes place and with no capacity limit, is already deregulated under the Live Music Act 2012 and this exemption will not be affected by the deregulation proposals.

Any relevant entertainment that falls outside the capacity limit and 23.00 terminal hour restriction will still need licensing authorisation. Although details in the Consultation Response are limited, the DCMS suggest that conditions on premises licences that relate to deregulated entertainment will be 'suspended' whilst the exemption applies (i.e. until 23.00 and for audiences up to 500 – live and recorded music).

However, this needs to be clarified once the Draft Bill is issued because of the myriad of conditions that may apply and how they may be interpreted. It is also likely that operators who are affected by certain 'entertainment conditions' on premises licences will wish to apply for these to be removed by way of a minor variation.

In our own response to the initial consultation, we warned of the potential for unintended consequences arising from deregulation. Some of these have been picked up with the modified proposals, but we still consider that there is a risk of 'parasitic' unlicensed and therefore unregulated entertainment events taking place alongside or near to properly licensed outdoor music events.

We believe it is important to ensure that effective enforcement powers are given to the authorities to take immediate action to stop such events in appropriate circumstances.

Finally, it is important to note that the proposals do not have any effect on the separate music copyright licensing requirements under the PRS for Music and PPL regimes.