Public-service broadcasting in the Netherlands
Learn more about Public-service broadcasting in the Netherlands
Public-service broadcasting in the Netherlands is provided jointly by a number of broadcasting organizations under the tutelage of the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS). Publieke Omroep (from the Dutch-language term for public broadcasting) is the name used in the Netherlands to refer to the country's public-service broadcasting system as a whole; it is used, for instance, as the name of the joint web portal co-ordinated by the NOS on behalf of all the broadcasting associations.
Unlike most other countries' public broadcasting organizations, which are either national corporations (such as the BBC and France Télévisions / Radio France) or federations of regional public-law bodies (for example, ARD, SRG SSR idée suisse), those in the Netherlands are member-based broadcasting associations. This arrangement has its origins in the system developed in the Netherlands early in the 20th century and known as pillarization. Under this system the different confessional and political streams of Dutch society (Catholics, Protestants, socialists, etc.) all had their own separate associations, newspapers, sports clubs, educational institutions, and also broadcasting organizations.
The stated aim is to give a voice to each social group in the multicultural diversity that is Dutch society. The number of hours allocated to each broadcaster corresponds, roughly, to the number of members each organization is able to recruit (although this does not apply to NOS and NPS – see below). Since 2000, the system has been financed out of general taxation rather than from broadcast receiver licence fees. This is supplemented by a limited amount of on-air advertising, which has been allowed since 1967.
The broadcasting organizations produce programmes for three television channels – Nederland 1, Nederland 2, Nederland 3 and Nederland 4 (digital) – and five national radio networks – Radio 1, Radio 2, 3FM, Radio 4, and Radio 5 (for several years dubbed 747 AM and Radio 747). Publieke Omroep/NOS also maintains the formerly commercial radio station ConcertZender. BNN (see below) maintains the national edition of urban radio station FunX.
In alphabetical order, the current membership-based public broadcasting organizations are:
- AVRO (Algemeene Vereniging Radio Omroep): One of the oldest broadcasters. The aim is secular and for the general public. Originally it was intended for the right-wing liberal audience. Its new mission statement claims the broadcaster is 'promoting freedom', emphasizing its liberal roots. web
- BNN (Bart's Neverending Network, formerly Bart's News Network): Recently founded public broadcaster. Aimed at teenagers and young people in general. Lots of pop culture and sometimes goes for shock value. Named after founder Bart de Graaff, a Dutch celebrity who died in 2002. web
- EO (Evangelische Omroep): Protestant Christian Evangelical broadcaster. Has a religious orientation in its broadcasting of a strong evangelical nature. web
- KRO (Katholieke Radio Omroep): Catholic broadcaster. Has predominantly non-religious programming and tends to be liberal, emphasizing on emotion-driven programming. web
- NCRV (Nederlandse Christelijke Radio Vereniging): The main Protestant broadcaster. Has predominantly non-religious programming and tends to be liberal. web
- TROS (Televisie Radio Omroep Stichting): A general broadcaster with a focus on entertainment, originating from a commercial pirate TV station. web. One of the broadcaster's most famous programmes is Dit was het nieuws ("This was the news"), the Dutch version of Have I Got News For You, presented by Harm Edens. web
- VARA (Verenigde Arbeiders Radio Amateurs): Large broadcaster with a left-wing labour oriented background. web
- VPRO (Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep): Quirky, independently minded broadcaster with a (very) liberal Protestant background. Lots of original cultural programming of an intellectual nature. web
Apart from these eight major broadcasters, (a small amount of) airtime is given to smaller organizations, which represent religions, have educational programs, or received airtime for other reasons. The amount of broadcasting time for the "religious" broadcasting organizations is assigned roughly proportional to the number of members they have.
- BOS (Boeddhistische Omroep Stichting): A small Buddhist broadcaster. web
- Humanistische Omroep: A small broadcaster dedicated to secular Humanism. web
- IKON (Interkerkelijke Omroep Nederland): A small broadcaster representing a diverse set of nine Christian churches. web
- Joodse Omroep The new name of NIKmedia (Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap): Dutch-Jewish broadcaster. web
- NIO (Nederlandse Islamitische Omroep): Small Islamic broadcaster. web
- NMO (Nederlandse Moslim Omroep): Small Islamic broadcaster, slightly more progressive than the NIO. web
- OHM (Organisatie Hindoe Media): Small Hindu broadcaster. web
- Omroep MAX: aimed at the over 50's. web
- OF (Omrop Fryslân): Regional broadcaster from the province of Friesland, which also receives a small amount of airtime on national television to broadcast programs in Frisian, the second official language of the Netherlands. web
- RKK: (Rooms-Katholiek Kerkgenootschap). Small Roman Catholic broadcaster, actual programming produced by the KRO. Roman Catholic events and services on television are broadcast by the RKK. web
- RVU (Radio Volks Universiteit): Small educational broadcaster with a non-secular non-ideological nature. Member of Educom, see TELEAC/NOT. web
- PP (Zendtijd voor Politieke partijen): Small broadcaster that broadcasts commercials of political parties (aiming to be) represented in the Dutch parliament.
- TELEAC/NOT (Televisie-academie/Nederlandse Onderwijs Televisie): Larger educational broadcaster. Produces courses on television and television for schools. Member of Educom, see TELEAC/NOT. web
- ZvK (Zendtijd voor Kerken): Small broadcaster that broadcasts church services from some smaller Protestant churches. web
And finally, there are two public special broadcasting organizations, which don't have any members.
- NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting): Focused on news, parliamentary reporting, sports. Aims to be objective and does the "Journaal", the main (daytime/evening) news on the public channels. Coordinates the other public broadcasters and make most of the teletext pages. Dutch representative in the EBU. web
- NPS (Nederlandse Programma Stichting): This used to be part of the NOS but split off in 1995. Produces cultural, informative, youth and minority-oriented television. Produces the Dutch version of Sesame Street. It is considered to put the NOS and NPS back together in the year 2008. web
Public broadcasting in the Netherlands has been since the very beginning in the early 1920s split up into different companies. Because the Dutch society is very heterogeneous each group wanted to have its own broadcasting company. At first there was the AVRO, which discovered the medium radio and started the first broadcastings. Not much later, the Protestants started their own company, NCRV, to broadcast religious programmes. The Catholics quickly followed and started the KRO. The socialists, traditionally less religious, also created a broadcasting company, called VARA. Lastly, the progressive Protestants also wanted to broadcast and started the VPRO. Each company was targeted at a specific group of the population, this process was called pillarisation (verzuiling in Dutch). Each group was faithful to its broadcasting company, for a Protestant to listen to KRO programming was simply not done.
This closed system soon became too small for the newly invented medium television, and a solution had to be found to allow more companies to broadcast their programmes. In 1969, the first broadcasting company not bound to a certain religion or group, TROS, made its debut. Times had changed since the beginnings of radio, companies started making programmes for everyone, and not only for their target group. It was no longer a sin to listen to or watch programmes from other companies.
Since the open system any company can become a broadcasting company and get radio and TV airtime. The only thing required is to request an official status from the government and to have enough members. Broadcast companies in the Netherlands still have to make sure every year they have enough members to keep their official status, and most of them sell TV-guides or other magazines and make every subscriber a member of their organization.
 Current Situation
Many people question if the current system is still applicable to this age of digital radio and digital television. There are plans to change the way broadcast companies are selected, and completely abolish the member-based system. However, currently the system is still the way it always has been, and a new system will probably only make its appearance in several years.
Since 1992 the Netherlands also allows commercial broadcasters, before 1992 commercial television was only allowed on Dutch television when the channel was not based in the Netherlands. Therefore RTL4, founded in 1989, is officially a Luxembourg television channel. Since the Luxembourg TV law is more flexible towards commercial programming, RTL's other two channels RTL5 and RTL7 are also based in Luxembourg.