Types of regulated entertainment
The Licensing Act 2003 sets out what activities are included when providing regulated entertainment and when they are licensable and those activities which are not and therefore exempt from the regulated entertainment regime. Changes to regulated entertainment took effect on 6 April 2015.
The descriptions of entertainment activities licensable under the 2003 Act are:
- a performance of a play
- an exhibition of a film
- an indoor sporting event
- a boxing or wrestling entertainment
- a performance of live music
- any playing of recorded music
- a performance of dance
- and entertainment of a similar description to a performance of live music, any playing of recorded music or a performance of dance.
To be licensable, one or more of these activities needs to:
- be provided for the purpose (at least partly) of entertaining an audience
- be held on premises that are available for the purpose of enabling that activity
- take place in the presence of a public audience or must be subject to a charge made with a view to profit (if the activitity takes place in private)
Authorisation for regulated entertainment is always required for entertainment activities that take place before 8am or after 11pm, unless exempted under any other provision of the 2003 Act.
There are a number of exemptions that mean that a licence (or other authorisation) under the 2003 Act is not required. We are unable to give examples of every eventuality or possible entertainment activity that is not licensable. However, the following activities are examples of entertainment which are not licensable:
- activities which involve participation as acts of worship in a religious context
- activities in places of public religious worship
- education – teaching students to perform music or to dance; the demonstration of a product – for example, a guitar – in a music shop
- the rehearsal of a play or performance of music for a private audience where no charge is made with a view to making a profit
- Morris dancing (or similar)
- incidental music – the performance of live music or the playing of recorded music if it is incidental to another activity
- incidental film – exhibitioning film if it is incidental to some other activity or if it is solely to demonstrate a product, advertise any goods or services, or provide information, education or instruction. This includes any film exhibition at a museum or art gallery
- live television or radio broadcasts is live and simultaneous; (please note if the event shown is on SKY television you are required to have a licence from SKY) A spontaneous performance of music, singing or dancing
- garden fetes – or similar if not being promoted or held for purposes of private gain
- films for advertisement, information, education or in museums or art galleries
- vehicles in motion – at a time when the vehicle is not permanently or temporarily parked
- games played in pubs, youth clubs etc. (e.g. pool, darts and table tennis)
- stand-up comedy
- provision of entertainment facilities (e.g. dance floors, stage)
- carol singers going from door to door, or just deciding to sing in a particular place, or even turning up unannounced in a pub and singing, incidental to other activities or part of a religious service would not require a licence
- jukebox - the playing of recorded music that is incidental to other activities that are not themselves the provision of regulated entertainment will be exempt. A jukebox in a pub will not necessarily have to be authorised unless, the jukebox music is played at high volume
As a result of deregulatory changes that have amended the 2003 Act, no licence is required for the following activities:
- Plays with performances between 8am and 11pm on any day, if the audience does not exceed 500
- Dance if performances are between 8am and 11pm on any day, if the audience does not exceed 500
- Films if it's a ‘not-for-profit’ film exhibition held in community premises between 8am and 11pm on any day, if the audience does not exceed 500 and the organiser gets consent to the screening from a someone responsible for the premises and ensures that each screening follows age classification ratings
- Indoor sporting events between 8am and 11pm on any day, if those present do not exceed 1000
- Boxing or wrestling entertainment for a contest, exhibition or display of Greco-Roman wrestling, or freestyle wrestling between 8am and 11pm on any day, if the audience does not exceed 1000
For the purposes of regulated entertainment, the term “audience” refers to anyone whose entertainment (at least in part) is provided to by licensable activities. It isn't about if an audience member needs or wants to be entertained but that an audience is present and the purpose of the entertainment activity.
The audience during associated activities does not include performers, anyone who contributes technical skills such as a sound engineer or stage technician. This includes those setting up before the entertainment, those on breaks (including udring intervals) between activities and those packing up after. Security staff and bar workers also will not form part of the audience while undertaking their duties.
More than one entertainment activity (or for a single activity, more than one performance or event) can be held concurrently, as long as the audience does not exceed the threshold at which the performance or event becomes licensable. In some circumstances, there will be a clear distinction between performances or events; for example if they are taking place in separate rooms or on separate floors. However, organisers must ensure that audiences do not grow or migrate, so that the audience exceeds the limit. If there is the possibility of audience migration, it might be easier and more flexible to secure an appropriate authorisation.
Events held in private are not licensable unless those attending are charged for the entertainment with a view to making a profit (including raising money for charity). For example, where a party is held for friends in a private dwelling featuring amplified live music, if a charge or contribution is made solely to cover the costs of the entertainment, the activity is not regulated entertainment.
Any charge made to the organiser of a private event by musicians, other performers, or their agents does not of itself make that entertainment licensable – it would only do so if the guests attending were charged by the organiser for that entertainment with a view to achieving a profit and would not matter if the organiser achieved profit without the intention to do so.
Before entertainment is regarded as being provided for consideration, a charge has to be:
- made by or on behalf of a person concerned with the organisation or management of the entertainment
- and paid by or on behalf of some or all of the persons for whom the entertainment is provided.
Community premises: music entertainment
No licence is required for a performance of live music or the playing of recorded music on community premises, between 8am to 11pm on any day provided that:
- the community premises are not authorised by a premises licence or club premises certificate, to be used for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises
- the music entertainment is in the presence of an audience of no more than 500 people
- the person organising or managing the entertainment has been given prior written consent of the management committee of the premises, or if there is no management committee, a person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking, or failing that a person with a relevant property interest in the premises
No licence is required for an exhibition of a film on community premises between 8am to 11pm on any day provided that:
- the film entertainment is not provided with a view to profit
- the film entertainment is in the presence of an audience of no more than 500 people
Local Authority, Schools, Hospitals and Travelling Circuses
A Cross Activity Exemption is available to any entertainment event or activity:
- hosted by a local authority on their own premises, if there is a significant relationship between the local authority and the entertainment provider (such as principal and agent)
- organised on a local authority’s behalf on the local authority’s premises by a cultural trust in discharge of a local authority’s discretionary power to arrange entertainment and support for the arts, including festivals and celebrations
- organised by a healthcare provider on their own hospital premises in partnership with a hospital charity
- on school premises organised by the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to benefit the school
- taking place at a travelling circus (excluding films and a boxing or wrestling entertainment)
If a person is charged with the offence of carrying on an unauthorised licensable activity, their only defence is due diligence. The person making the defence is responsible for providing evidence that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If found guilty, they may be liable for a maximum fine of £20,000 and could also be given a maximum of three months imprisonment.
Other types of licence you may need
The Performing Rights Society and Phonographic Performance Limited collect and distribute licence fees for the public performance and broadcast of musical works, you should visit their websites to ensure that you are compliant with their regulations.
Applications for a Premises Licence where the only activity is regulated entertainment at particular types of premises may be exempted from the application fee and annual fees
Please note that the information above is not legal advice. Legislation and procedures may change over time and the advice given is based on the information available at the current time. It is not necessarily comprehensive and will be subject to revision in the event of further government guidance and regulations. This advice is not intended to be a definitive guide to or substitute for the relevant law.
For more information contact Licensing Unit on 01634 306 000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to: Licensing Unit, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR