Members of the Public Broadcasting Advisory Board made these far-reaching recommendations in the research report Unity in diversity. The report does not mention the broadcaster by name, but some of the top tips appear to be aimed at preventing a broadcaster like Ongehoord Nederland (ON) from joining the system in the future. Due to systematic violations of the press law at the public broadcaster NPO, its board of directors asked the Cabinet to remove ON from the system.
The advisory board, chaired by former CDA politician Peter van Geel, was set up last September to advise on standards of acceptance and accountability in public broadcasting. This starting point was gradually expanded: the Advisory Committee also investigated how the lines at Hilversum operate: who has what decision-making authority and how can all this be improved?
About the authors
Gijs Bueckers is the media editor at De Volkskrant. He mainly writes about television, podcasts, and books. Hassan Bahara, editor of media and culture at the newspaper De Volkskrant. Before that, he wrote about extremism (online).
The Council presented the research report to outgoing State Secretary Jönai Oslo (Culture and Media, D66) on Monday afternoon at the Amare Cultural Center in The Hague. She wrote in her response that her successor would later respond substantively to the findings.
If politicians include the recommendations in the new media law, they will come into force on 1 January 2028, when the new recognition period for broadcasters begins. What are the most important tips?
The hottest potato in Hilversum at the moment is on. Last year, the Dutch public broadcaster (NPO) imposed three fines on the right-wing populist broadcaster for spreading misinformation. Last April, the non-profit organization had enough and asked State Secretary Oslo to expel On from the public system. It is now up to her to speak out about ON before December.
To prevent this shifting back and forth of responsibility for the future fate of the broadcaster, the Commission proposes the establishment of a Public Media Authority (APM). This body must independently decide which broadcasters join or leave.
The recommendation “establishes the possibility of premature withdrawal of a broadcaster’s accreditation in cases where the conduct of a broadcaster would cause serious harm or jeopardize or jeopardize the authority of the public broadcaster as an institution.”
Jan Slagter, director of Omroep Max, has been saying for years that the nonprofit has a front door, but no back door. “This report supports that, and I think that’s a good thing.” The broadcaster must continue to prove that it appeals to a wide range of Dutch people.
The committee also recommends another hurdle to separating the wheat from the chaff. Aspiring broadcasters must first enter a two-year ‘portfolio phase’ where they prove they have the necessary quality within the company and uphold the values of the overall system. Programs of sufficient quality can already be broadcast during that period.
In principle, non-profit organizations are responsible for distributing funds and airtime between broadcasters. It is then up to them to provide supply with these resources. According to the media law, it must be diverse, of high quality, and serve all segments of society.
However, sometimes “blind spots” occur and a certain offer is lost from broadcasters. In those cases, the nonprofit sometimes contacted outside producers directly to provide this exposure. These programs were then transferred to the broadcasting corporation.
According to the Advisory Committee, this is undesirable. A non-profit organization should not have administrative and substantive control over the public system at the same time.
“Remove the option for outside production houses to pitch an initial idea to nonprofits from the Media Code and allow outside producers to pitch their ideas for media pitches only to broadcast associations,” the advisory committee wrote.
The director of the Association of Dutch Content Producers (NCP) says he is “suspecting” of this proposal. “External producers will soon only be able to contact broadcasters. But they also produce themselves. There must be good rules to prevent broadcasters’ production houses from running away with ideas from external producers.
Today, public broadcasting is a vast archipelago of many small and large broadcast stations (thirteen in all), each of which has a director or board chair who pleads its case before the nonprofit’s board of directors.
The Van Geel Commission proposes converting this tangled group of broadcasters into a new system of six “support broadcasters”. Beneath this, like a kind of sub-editing staff, are smaller announcers.
For example, BNNVara could become one of the six supporting broadcasters, and Omroep Zwart could join the so-called “broadcast editorial team”. BNNVara does all the administrative hassle – consultations with nonprofits about airtime and finances. Omroep Zwart Advantage: She can put more hours of work into her objective profile. The advantage for nonprofits and supporting broadcasters: There are fewer captains on board, which benefits ease of management in the broadcasting world.
There are currently six broadcasters qualified in terms of size (at least 150,000 members) for supporting broadcaster status: AvroTros, BNNVara, KRO-NCRV, Omroep Max, EO and VPRO.
It is up to small broadcasters to join one of the supporting broadcasters on a “convergence” basis, the commission wrote. However, she advises staying behind the door: if broadcasters cannot reach an agreement, forced mergers will have to follow.
Arnold Karskins, chairman of Ongehoord Nederland, is “disappointed”, he writes via the app. ‘A healthy public system benefits from a wide range of opinions and tastes. Existing traditional broadcasters have proven that they follow new trends in society poorly. Hence the raison d’être of broadcasters such as PowNed, WNL, Zwart and Ongehoord Nederland.’
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