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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Should ticket touting be illegal?
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Ticket touting is a growing concern for many concert-goers - but should the government outlaw it or is it up to the music industry to stamp out touts?

Over the last few months, the government has held a series of summits to discuss the issue of ticket touts with the music industry, ticket agencies and internet auction sites.

Shaun Woodward
Culture minister Shaun Woodward insists legislation is unnecessary
While the government insists "good progress" has been made, it refuses to outlaw the practice of reselling concert tickets.

Creative Industries Minister Shaun Woodward says the problem is not as big as people perceive.

"There is a problem, but it is not a problem for the majority of people buying tickets," he explains.

"Eighty-five percent of the tickets are actually being sold and bought and used by legitimate fans in a legitimate way for the price they should be."

'Outrageous abuses'

But Mr Woodward admits there are abuses.

"Where abuses have taken place, albeit a small number, those abuses are outrageous," he says.

"But there is a very big difference between the ordinary person who buys a ticket and can't go, so sells it to his neighbour for 55 and not 50, and somebody who is running a business based on buying a tickets for 50 and selling them for 2,500."

Mr Woodward says it is important not to penalise music fans who have a genuine reason to pass on tickets.

The government is just putting its head under the duvet and hoping that this is just going to go away
Rob Ballantine
Concert Promoters' Association
"What we have got to do here is first of all recognise the problem, then we have to find a proportionate response," he explains.

"NME asked their readers how many people wanted the government to step in and regulate this market, and the answer was 5% - so 95% of the public do not want the government to step in here.

"What they are saying is that they want, when they buy a ticket, the legitimate right to resell it."

But Paul Stokes, news editor of music bible NME, which running a Stamp Out The Touts campaign, says the big picture is not black-and-white.

VOTE RESULTS
Is it up to the government to legislate against ticket touts, or the music industry to make it harder for touts to operate?
Government
 36.18% 
Music industry
 63.82% 
3900 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
It was not "strictly accurate" to say that 95% of people were happy with the current secondary market, he says.

"While 95% said they would like to be able to resell tickets - for example, to friends if they can no longer go - 59% of our readers said they want online auctions banned."

Stokes says the NME was prompted to set up the anti-tout campaign after noticing that inflated prices for tickets on internet auction sites was a growing problem.

"Last year at T in the Park and Reading it was a matter of minutes before they were being sold on online auction sites for four, five times their face value," Stokes says.

Code of practice

"There is no way that people buying those tickets thought: 'You know what, I can't make it. What was I thinking?' and put them up for sale.

"It's blatantly abusing the fact the law is very grey in that area and making profit off the back of genuine music lovers."

Take That
Hundreds of Take That tickets have been sold on internet auction sites
Stokes says he would like the government to introduce legislation or a code of practice.

It is a view shared by Rob Ballantine, chair of the Concert Promoters' Association (CPA), who believes the government should do more to protect the consumer.

"Ultimately what we would like is legislation that would stop any person reselling a concert ticket for commercial gain," he says.

"But we are realistic enough to know that the government are not going to legislate to stop any sort of touting, so what we would like, on behalf of the consumer, is a measure of protection to be but in place.

"We would like the government to insist anyone offering a ticket in the secondary market has to say exactly where that ticket is, or give an identifying reference number to prove that they own that ticket.

Geoff Ellis
If people can't go, we don't want to criminalise them for selling it for face value to a friend
Geoff Ellis,
T in the Park director
"The government is hesitating to do that, and are just putting their head under the duvet and hoping that this is just going to go away."

Mr Ballantine also said the CPA was willing to set up a website allowing fans to exchange tickets at face value in the absence of government legislation.

But Mr Woodward remains unconvinced that legislation is the right way forward.

It is up to the music industry to come up with more creative ways of policing the market, he says, citing the Glastonbury Festival's photo ID and the Arctic Monkeys' ticket ballot as examples.

"If people see that the only way you can get into an event is with your pin number and photo ID, and promoters actually turn people away at the door, it would send out a very clear message," Mr Woodward says.

'Morally responsible'

It is something managers at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle have said they already plan to do at November's Take That concerts.

General manager Colin Revel says they have cancelled tickets they saw being resold on the internet, meaning genuine fans who have bought from touts could be turned away.

"It's not a legal issue - there's no law against selling tickets on eBay," he says.

"But we are being morally responsible because, from a responsible venue point of view, the public look to us to do something about touts."

But T in the Park director Geoff Ellis says introducing such measures is making fans "jump through hoops".

"I'd like the government to bring in legislation to resell tickets for a profit. If people can't go, we don't want to criminalise them for selling it for face value to a friend, it's within the spirit of the sale of the ticket.

"Every entertainment organisation in the UK is asking for this. We can't all be wrong, we can't all be barking up the wrong tree."


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