On Friday 12th September, Feargal Sharkey, now Chief Executive
of British Music Rights, was interviewed in that capacity on BBC Radio
4 'You and Yours'.
Towards the end of the programme, in response to a listener's question,
he let slip that he was due to meet government officials the following
week to discuss the small gigs entertainment licensing exemption recommended
'as a matter of some urgency' by the erstwhile Live Music Forum more than
a year ago.
When asked about this meeting, Linda Martin, Head of Press at the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport, tersely replied: 'DCMS ministers and officials
meet regularly with a range of stakeholders. Those meetings are private
and the department does not provide details of them.'
An unhelpful reply, and not strictly accurate: dates and limited details
of ministers meetings are published in response to Freedom of Information
Act requests. See for example:
Sharkey's continued involvement in the entertainment licensing debacle
is curious. He has held the BMR post since 1st February. The LMF was disbanded
in the summer of 2007 following publication of its recommendations to
ministers - but before the all-important follow-up survey of live music
research had been carried out. Enquiries suggest that other former LMF
members, with the exception of the Musicians' Union, and recently the
Arts Council, have not been kept informed of entertainment licensing developments
Indeed, it seems Sharkey was not keen to chair the LMF in the first place.
In a self-penned profile published in the Spring issue of Link magazine,
he describes how his LMF job came about:
'It was like I stepped out of the room at the Radio Authority and they
[DCMS] pointed at me and said "You! You know about the music industry
- or, at least, you're supposed to. You chair the Forum." Getting
the job here at BMR was an entirely different experience. I was really
keen to apply for it and really keen to accept the role."
['Perspectives', 'A Good Start', CEO of British Music Rights, Feargal
Sharkey, LINK, Spring 2008, p50]
Magazine's home page (but not the article which is unavailable online)
But while the DCMS press office was being absurdly tight-lipped, a limited
update had in fact already been published in a Written Answer from government
culture spokesperson Lord Bassam of Brighton, Monday 15 September:
'The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is at an early stage of the
development of exemptions for low-impact licensable activities, including
small-scale live music. Officials have discussed the draft live music
exemptions with the Musicians' Union, and with individual live music providers.
We will continue to discuss all of the exemptions with a variety of stakeholders,
particularly those on our Licensing Advisory Group which includes the
Arts Council representing all the arts, including live music.'
[Response to a written question from Lord Clement-Jones, HL5272]
The government will have to get a move on if it is to meet its own deadline
of a public consultation on further exemptions this autumn, and implementation
by next spring.