The Live Music Forum
Monday 28th November 2005 - Government responds to 1.7 million gig question
The government has published a response to Lord Redesdale's question about
the retrospective and covert alteration by DCMS of the 1.7m gig claim made by
former licensing minister Richard Caborn in the DCMS press release of 25/08/04.
A copy of the question and response is appended below.
Responding for the government, Lord Davies confirms that the Live Music Forum (LMF) was not consulted on the press release alteration 'as the change was a minor one, and the executive summary of MORI's report, which had been sent to journalists with the original press release, had already made clear the range of venues covered by the survey.'
Predictably, this is highly misleading, and is no trivial matter. MORI's reputation is involved, for one thing. Further Parliamentary questions will be raised as a result. The credibility of the Live Music Forum is also at stake because of its relationship with DCMS and statements about the survey findings that have been made in the press by LMF chairperson Feargal Sharkey.
Lord Davies' answer is misleading for these reasons:
1. It is absurd to claim the press release alteration was 'minor'. In finding that the original 1.7m claim was misleading, the Market Research Society Board adjusted this estimate downwards by about 25% to 1.3m for the venues cited by Caborn. This is a significant adjustment by any standards, but remains concealed as a result of the alterations made by DCMS. It also seems highly unlikely to me that MORI should request changes to a minister's long-since published words without also requiring that the amended document, particularly on a public website, should clearly indicate that changes have been made and the nature of those changes.
2. Merely listing the 'range of venues' in the executive summary did not provide the data necessary to verify Caborn's 1.7m gig claim for 'bars, clubs and restaurants'. To do this you need the number of venues in each venue category surveyed, the number within each category which actually hosted live music, and the estimated total number of such venues in England and Wales. This data was only published in the full MORI report some time after the publication of the 25/08/04 press release and executive summary. Indeed, despite three subsequent Parliamentary questions (including the most recent), the government has so far avoided publishing gig estimates by venue category. Why? Could it be that to do so would undermine the 'flourishing' claim for live music in bars and restaurants, and hence suggest that licensing had harmed live music in this important area?
3. The phrase 'bars, clubs and restaurants' only occurred in Caborn's original quote. Lord Davies avoids stating this explicitly, the implication being that only the body of the text was changed, rather than a minister's actual words. The MRSB has already confirmed that the disciplinary action they imposed on the MORI member did not include altering the minister's quote.
Even if you don't care much that the estimate of 1.7m live gigs a year was for all venues 'whose main business isn't live music', to claim that this indicates a flourishing live music scene is ridiculous. This figure translates into less than one live gig a month in 151,176 restaurants, hotels, student unions, clubs, members clubs and associations, church and community halls in England and Wales. Remember we're not talking about solely professional or even semi-professional performances; unpaid gigs were included.
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Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:
What consultations they held with (a) Market and Opinion Research International, and (b) the Live Music Forum prior to the addition of an extra point under "Notes to Editors" and the change to the quotation by the Minister of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport contained in the press release issued by the department on 25 August, entitled Live Music Scene—The Verdict; who sanctioned those changes; and when they were made. [HL2339]
Lord Davies of Oldham: On 10 May 2005, MORI informed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of a complaint made to the Market Research Society (MRS) by a third party. The complainant argued that DCMS's press release of 25 August 2004, announcing the results of MORI's research into the performance of live music, had contained a misleading statement. The MRS upheld this complaint, and on 27 September 2005 MORI asked DCMS if it would amend its press release by adding the words "and other venues" to the reference to "bars, clubs and restaurants", and by inserting an additional footnote in the "Notes to Editors" to list the range of venues covered by the survey. DCMS officials complied with this request on 21 October. The Live Music Forum was not consulted as the change was a minor one, and the executive summary of MORI's report, which had been sent to journalists with the original press release, had already made clear the range of venues covered by the survey.
by Hamish Birchall