Reading and Leeds festival organiser Melvin Benn has pointed the finger firmly at the Government for allowing the secondary ticket sales market to go unregulated. Speaking to BBC Newsbeat Benn made it clear: the government has “left the problem with us”.
Benn singled out the Olympics as both an example of government hypocrisy and the right way to handle ticket touting:
“The Olympics did it the easy way. The just wrote a law and passed it. They’ve got that mechanic at hand to them.
I do feel its one rule for one thing and one rule for another
I didn’t think it was massively helpful to us. He [Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt] has left the problem with us really.”
According to Newsbeat Benn has been campaigning for a 10% profit cap on the resale of tickets, with a view to stopping fees way exceeding the face value of the ticket.
Continue his assault on the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Benn said:
“Unless there is a demonstrable market failure there is not a case for government action. [It] disappoints me because it’s the citizens of the country who get hurt by it. Business gets hurts by it.
Very straight forwardly he [Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt] believes it’s the industry’s problem rather than a government problem.”
Finally Benn turned his attention to the topic of photo IDs defending his decision to snub a Glastonbury like scheme despite The Culture Secretary’s suggestion that the solution to this issue lies with Photo IDs:
“If that was the way forward why didn’t the Olympics do it?”
“Festivals are for young people – quite often the decision to go is spur of the moment…to constantly be uploading photographs would be a discouragement and would damage the industry.”
Strictly Our Opinion: After the Dispatches programme suggested promotional companies and ticket vendors were complicit in selling directly to Viagogo it’s hard to avoid taking Benn’s words with a pinch of salt.
Nevertheless, both Benn and Hunt make valid points. Top down government legislation could level the playing field once and for all and set acceptable limits for the entire industry, but equally Benn has the power to solve this problem on his own. Is it really the Culture Secretary’s job to decide which business is more worthy, the festival promotor charing £200 a ticket or the shady reseller allowing fans to shift their unwanted tickets.
After all this is a Tory government and regulating private businesses is unlikely to be on their agenda. Photo IDs and proper registration systems could solve the problem without forcing the government to pick sides.
While it’s great to see Benn sticking up for Festival fans, it helps no one to make facile points like “why didn’t the Olympics do it?”, it’s a straw man argument, he knows why, because they passed legislation, there was no need for photo IDs. It’s an easy way to dodge the question.
Benn has done well in the past 12-months to restore his image in festival goers eyes but by arguing for “spontaneity” and dodging the Photo ID solution, Benn is effectively absolving himself of responsibility. He’s kicking the issue into the long grass, making it the government’s problem, and tacitly endorsing the status quo.
We want solutions, not finger pointing; Government inaction does not justify overall inaction. By all means keep campaigning and lobbying the government, but be proactive in an industry that you hold great power and sway over.