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'Not privatisation': Ticketek to take over BASS box office

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The Adelaide Festival Centre has announced its BASS box office will be taken over by national ticketing provider Ticketek, saying the controversial move is “not privatisation, it’s outsourcing”.

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The announcement signals the end of BASS in South Australia after over 40 years of processing ticket sales for the state’s major arts institutions, including the Festival Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse, Space Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre.

In a media release this afternoon, the Adelaide Festival Centre (AFC) said its new deal with Ticketek would provide the “most streamlined, up-to-date way to purchase tickets for shows and events at Adelaide Festival Centre venues”.

It also said that the deal would give patrons greater access to “blockbuster events touring nationally and internationally through TEG-owned Ticketek’s vast Australasian networks”.

It comes after InDaily reported union concerns that the AFC planned to “privatise” the revenue-making BASS box office as part of a review into its ticketing software.

Public Service Association assistant general secretary Natasha Brown said the AFC’s decision to outsource its ticketing service was “unwarranted”.

“This privatisation has taken place under the cover of a COVID lockdown, clearly in the hope that it will go under the radar,” she said.

“When all the evidence points to privatisation being completely against the interests of the community, it makes no sense to sell off a small, high performing service that actually creates revenue for our struggling Arts community.”

The PSA said it would raise the issue when it is called to give evidence at a parliamentary select committee hearing into privatisation in South Australia.

The AFC has confirmed that current permanent and temporary BASS staff would be offered employment at Ticketek’s Adelaide office, while casuals would be offered the opportunity to work with Ticketek’s casual staffing pool.

Face-to-face ticket sales are set to continue, as will the dedicated call centre.

The AFC said existing BASS outlets would transition to Ticketek over the next three months, with ticketholders to be contacted directly about any ticketing changes.

“It’s not privatisation, it’s outsourcing,” the centre’s CEO and artistic director Douglas Gautier said.

“We are excited about what this partnership means for the future of live entertainment in South Australia, particularly the opportunity to attract even more great shows for our valued patrons at Adelaide Festival Centre.

“We are pleased our ticketing staff will be able to continue to use their fine skills through this collaboration and I want to acknowledge and thank all current and past BASS colleagues for their outstanding service to our audiences over many years.”

BASS was established in 1977 and was owned and operated by the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust.

The AFC said technological advancements in ticketing and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to reconsider its ticketing model.

Gautier said it was a “pretty standard process” for most arts centres to deal with separate ticketing organisations.

Ticketek bought out what was once Queensland’s BASS agency, while Ticketmaster bought out BASS Victoria, which was previously owned by the Victorian Government under the auspices of the Victorian Arts Centre Trust.

Its CEO Geoff Jones said Ticketek would bring “world-leading ticketing technology to Adelaide Festival Centre’s venues and their faithful patrons”.

“We put fans and innovation at the heart of everything we do. As such we will bring exciting innovations to the centre, making it easier than ever to access great shows,” he said.

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