Friday, February 09, 2007

Touts, touts, keep 'em out

The dull splosh of a policy initiative from Tessa Jowell's Department For Culture, Media and Sport is always a delight. Now, they're all worried about ticket touts, and have come up with a policy which seems to be, erm, something must be done:

Ms Jowell said: "We want to address the problems faced by fans - paying through the nose for a ticket with a poor view or handing over cash for a ticket that never existed.

"Progress has been made but we're going to continue to work with the industry to cut off the commercial opportunities for ticket touts and stamp out unfair practices.

"But it would be unfair if consumers were unable to sell their own tickets, for whatever reason, and get their money back - we don't want to criminalise genuine fans."

Well, at least she's proposing a system with more flexibility in it than this year's Glastonbury system. We're a little lost as to what "unfair practices" she's talking about though.

Naturally, this doesn't go far enough for the concert promoters, who won't be happy unless they get to see people thrown into prisons:
But the Concert Promoters' Association called for members to pressure the DCMS for new laws banning ticket resale.

A spokesman said: "We welcome the secretary of state's clear statement that the government are against anyone re-selling a ticket for commercial gain.

"But we are frustrated that they have still not acted to give us the necessary tools to self-police our touts."

It's not clear exactly what "tools" they want - we suspect a lot of them might be similar to the sorts of things usually only sold for extreme bondage fun - and the worry has to be that someone in government will think "of course, providing legal support for a trade association to act like a private police force might be dubious at best and dangerous in the extreme, but it would be cheap..."

The trouble is, Jowells hasn't yet offered an explanation as to why concert tickets should be different from anything else with a finite supply. If its wrong to buy a ticket for the Diana No Seatbelt Driving gig with the intention of selling it on, then why is it acceptable to buy, say, a newly released Nintendo Wii or limited edition Dyson and sell that on upon eBay?

Of course, the response might be that this is different, because it's art and it's scandalous to restrict someone's access to the arts simply to make yourself richer. But then does the DCMS intend to criminalise people who buy paintings as investments and seal them away in bank vaults while their value increases? Or is there a subtle difference I'm missing?

We'd rather the DCMS looked at the shady practice of "booking fees" (or "turn out your other pocket"). Perhaps the public should be given the tools to self-police our scandalously over-charging booking agencies.