Mapping Minorities and their Media: The National Context – The Netherlands1



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Mapping Minorities and their Media: The National Context –

The Netherlands1




Susan Bink


MiraMedia

1. Introduction


The past ten years of Dutch media policy was dominated by the creation of a public broadcasting organisation able to compete in a dual (= public and commercial) system of broadcasting. This was needed as a counterforce after the arrival of commercial broadcasters like RTL4, RTL5, SBS6, Yorin and Net 5. The discussion on the public broadcasting system has since focussed on the market position and scale of the public stations, the broadcasting system’s profile among viewers and listeners and cooperation between the various broadcasters.
Due to the constant urging of such organisations as Stichting Omroep en Allochtonen (Dutch Foundation for Ethnic Minorities and Media or Stoa), a foundation that urges a better reflection of the multicultural society in the national, regional and local media, the role of the media in the multicultural society has regularly been placed on the political agenda by the Lower House of the Dutch parliament over the past ten years. Successive ministers and state secretaries were questioned on policy documents and policy evaluations. Media and minorities went from being an ad hoc subject to a structural component in media and cultural policy.
In 1999 the government presented the Notitie Media- en Minderhedenbeleid (Policy Paper on Media and Minorities Policy)2 to the Lower House. The guiding principle in this policy paper is that the changes in the composition of the Dutch population must be perceptible in the media in terms of programmes, programme makers and viewers. Its underlying objectives are to increase the quality and diversity of the media offer, improve the reach of Dutch media for cultural minorities and stimulate a balanced portrayal and a debate on the multicultural society. This is based on the idea that this can contribute to the process of mutual integration.
The public and commercial broadcasters and other media organisations are also discovering that ethnic minority consumers make up a significant share of their potential customer group and are accordingly important to their continued existence. The advancing integration of cultural minorities is clearly expressed in the media use of second and third generation migrants. They grew up in the Netherlands and have enjoyed a Dutch education. Research has proven that, as a result, their viewing and listening behaviour displays more similarities than dissimilarities to that of the native majority in the Netherlands. Yet on the whole the public television stations have less success reaching cultural minorities than reaching the native majority. This leads us to conclude that the public broadcasters do not yet meet the needs of ethnic minorities satisfactorily. Consequently, ethnic minority media consumers are forced to rely to some degree on satellite stations from their country of origin.
There is an essential difference between satellite programmes and Dutch terrestrial programmes specifically oriented to migrants. Only the terrestrial programmes pay any great attention to Dutch society and the position of minority groups in it, in addition to the cultural traditions and countries of origin of those groups. There appears to be a need for precisely such a blend among cultural minorities. Public broadcasting has a task to fulfil here. The Concession Act regulates the terms of reference of the public broadcasting: “A public broadcaster that takes itself seriously, also takes seriously the wishes and needs of the various age groups and communities within its audience. Having an eye for diverse experiences and perspectives within the multicultural society is a condition of diversity and quality in the programming of the broadcasters.”
The theme of ‘media and minorities’ has gained a clear and acknowledged place in government policy in the past few years. Yet it appears that the broadcasting world, in spite of various positive initiatives, such as the Meer Kleur in de Media (More Colour in the Media) projects that were carried out on the initiative of Stoa, is unable to respond to the reality of the modern multicultural society in terms of either their staff complements or their programmes.
This paper begins with a brief historical survey of the media and minorities policy. It will indicate how this policy is interwoven with the government’s integration policy and sets forth the current state of play (January 2002). This is followed by a description of the media landscape in the Netherlands and an examination of cultural diversity in the media. The last paragraph surveys selected projects and activities that have been initiated by organisations, broadcasters and governments during the past twenty-four months.
  1. Media (and minorities) policy in the Netherlands





    1. Brief historical survey of the media and minorities policy

In 1983 both the Minderhedennota (Policy Document on Minorities) and the Medianota (Policy Document on the Media) focused on the disadvantaged position of minorities in terms of the use of mass media in the Netherlands. To correct this, the government felt that “a number of measures [are] justified that put minorities in a better position to aspire to emancipation.” A number of themes are central here; these themes are derived from the general aspiration to equal participation and development opportunities for all citizens. Special attention was given to the possibilities of producing radio and television programmes for minorities, because these media can be very significant factors, nationally, regionally and locally, in the assimilation of minorities in Dutch society and, in addition, in their own cultural perception and development. At the same time, it was recognised that there was a great need among minorities for information on policy measures specifically meant for them, and for programmes that (largely) consist of artistic and cultural expressions and entertainment from their country of origin. Experiments with migrant television and Studio IM (a facilities and support services company for the production of video programmes for minorities) were started, while the broadcast time “specially reserved” for minorities (Paspoort) by the Dutch Broadcast Authority (NOS) was also extended a couple of times. After four years, policy on the local experiments was amended as part of the ‘new’ decentralisation policy. While the experiments were successful, their continuation became the financial responsibility of the local governments. Intensive lobbying by Stoa and the local migrant broadcasting organisations was able to prevent the complete loss of the local migrant broadcasters. This lobbying ultimately led to the preservation of the local broadcasters’ national resources through the establishment of a national service organisation (SOM-Media). Ultimately, only the Municipality of Amsterdam has continued to invest in migrant television, which has led to the disappearance of the other local initiatives in time.


The Media Council report Media en Allochtonen (Media and Ethnic Minorities) was published in December 1989. In it the Media Council argued for the introduction of an extra incentives policy promoting substantial central government driven media facilities specially oriented to ethnic minorities. At national level, the NOS was obliged to maintain the number of own-language programmes for minorities. It argued for a better structural embedding of programmes for minorities in the public broadcasting system. At the urging of Stoa and the request of the Lower House the government crystallised its reply in the 1991 Notitie Media en Minderheden (Policy Paper on Media and Minorities). This policy paper was based on the guiding principles of the Allochtonenbeleid (Ethnic Minorities Policy) report published by the WRR (Policy Research Council) in 1989. The WRR advised the government to gear its integration policy to three sectors: employment, education and adult education. The WRR championed the unlinking of integration and culture policy. That means that neither ‘negative’ nor ‘positive’ discrimination of ethnic minorities is considered acceptable. When ethnic minorities experience certain thresholds, the government may help lower them to a level corresponding to that experienced by the native majority. Integration and assimilation are spearheads of the policy; the perception of their own culture becomes the responsibility of the groups themselves. The WRR’s Allochtonenbeleid report observed that ethnic minority cultures find relatively little resonance in the media of the Netherlands. Access thresholds often prove to be too high. Local stations prove to meet an important need precisely among those groups.
In line with the WRR’s recommendations, the Notitie ‘Media- en Minderhedenbeleid’3 chiefly concentrated on presenting a good image of ethnic minorities in the media, as this has a very important role in the drive to integrate ethnic minorities into society. Although the positive action announced by the broadcasting organisations did not produce any results, the government was not willing to impose coercive measures. The minister of Welfare, Public Health & Culture went on a working visit to the BBC in London on the recommendation of Stoa to examine the effect of the equal opportunities policy there. The trade unions were given an important role. Incentive measures by government in education would appear to be a more natural approach. The government was not willing to continue to subsidise local broadcasting initiatives and saw a role for Stoa in assisting them. The Notitie Media en Minderheden signified the start of the interculturalisation policy directed at the national public broadcaster and the acknowledgement of the wishes advanced by minorities’ organisations for years. The WRR’s recommendation induced the NOS to discontinue its specific target group-oriented television programmes (Paspoort), referring to the WRR’s observation that it would be preferable to broadcast these programmes locally and the fact that Turks and Moroccans now have access to programmes in their own languages transmitted by satellite from their countries of origin. This was expressed by the NOS, in a document entitled Allochtonen en Omroep (Ethnic Minorities and Broadcasting) (January 1990), which clarifies its position. This decision led to hefty protests from the various migrant groupings. According to Stoa the conclusion that the NOS memorandum draws from the WRR report was completely different to the conclusion drawn by the Media Council, Stoa and the Lower House. These bodies used the observations in the WRR report precisely to enhance the position of minorities in the media at all levels. Not only at local level, but at national level too. This was expressed not only in the Media Council’s recommendation to beef up the NOS’s terms of reference, but also in the fact that the Lower House asked the minister of Welfare, Public Health & Culture to urge the NOS to earmark broadcast time, objectives and resources for programmes for minorities and finally, as argued by Stoa, to lay down the right of minorities to their own programmes in the new Media Act. In spite of the protests the NOS stood by its decision.
After a period of relative calm, in 1996 the media and minorities policy once more became the subject of political debate on a number of occasions. The immediate reason was the growing interest among some groups for their ‘own’ satellite stations from the country of origin, and reporting by these stations on few social events in the Netherlands4. This interest was seen as a threat to the integration process. There was renewed interest in the ‘national and local’ target group programmes in the Netherlands. These programmes were seen as a possible counterweight to the ‘foreign’ programmes. Urged on by Stoa, the Lower House was again asked to produce a policy document. State Secretary Nuis subsequently formulated a government position on 31 October 1997 in a policy memorandum5 on the Lower House’s media and minorities policy. The memorandum announced a study into the nature and scale of programming for minorities by national, regional and local broadcasters. It also acknowledged Stoa’s importance: ‘Stoa has a task with respect to more fundamental attention for and varied portrayal of minorities. In its activities, it is equally oriented to the commercial and public broadcasting organisations, partly through independent producers. Over the past few years I have wholeheartedly supported Stoa’s activities, and I shall continue to do so.’
The policy document on culture 1997-20006 addressed the intercultural issue in detail. It even derived its title from it: Pantser of Ruggengraat (Armature or Backbone). In terms of broadcasters and press, attention was given to the Meer Kleur in de Media action plan (Stoa and Public Broadcasting) and the limited reach of the NPS transmissions oriented to ethnic minorities. Evidence for that was provided by the 19957 NOS/KLO-commissioned media study into ethnic groups. Against this backdrop, a study was announced into the possibility migrants have of cancelling their subscriptions to the cable network when they can increasingly receive programmes by satellite from their countries of origin. It was announced that extra resources were being made available to subsidise Stoa, Stichting Service Organisatie Migranten Media (Migrant Service Organisation Agency, or SOM-Media), an agency that produced multicultural television programmes for the four large cities that merged with MTV (Migrant Television Amsterdam) in November 2001, and projects that contribute to the participation of migrants in the media. It was also explained how the government is to interpret the Wallage motion. This motion asks the government to realise programmes to teach newcomers the Dutch language through the mass media. Teleac/NOT has been commissioned to produce a series of educational programmes.

The results of the study into cable use by ethnic minorities were submitted to the Lower House on 22 June 1998. At the same time, Stoa published a report on the position of local broadcasting organisations, entitled Ongehoord Onzichtbaar (Unheard Unseen). During its debate on the policy memorandum in question the Lower House requested a follow-up policy paper on the media and minorities policy. This was the first incidence of policy-oriented attention for target group programming, alongside the drive to increase the intercultural nature of the national public broadcaster.


The policy document on integration, Kansen krijgen, kansen pakken. Het integratiebeleid 1999 – 20008 (Getting Opportunities, Taking Opportunities. Integration Policy 1999-2000), was presented in 1998. Integration policy stands or falls by the capacity of people to accept the multicultural society. In addition to more familiar policy instruments such as legislation and subsidies, there was an increasing understanding of the role of communication in the realisation of integration policy. Accordingly, within the integration policy of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations a special action programme (action programme 4) was dedicated to communication. This action programme has two facets:


  • Raising the perception of the integration process in the Netherlands, which includes the integration policy at national and local level, social initiatives and their impact on the native majority and members of ethnic minorities in society (objective: a balanced portrayal; target group: broad, general public);

  • Promoting optimal insight into available knowledge, experiences and insights to make integration possible (objective: effective use of expertise; target group: integration facilitators in the public sector, social organisations and so on)

There was also a special section dedicated to culture and media. Cultural convergence and confrontation is an important issue in cultural and media policy. This is actually in line with the given that many members of ethnic minority groups are second and third generation migrants. It is precisely intercultural activities and programmes that can involve these young people in culture and media – as audience and as makers.


In 1999 the cabinet presented a Notitie Media- en Minderhedenbeleid9 in connection with the earlier Notitie Ruim Baan voor Culturele Diversiteit10, (Make Way for Cultural Diversity Policy Paper), which was chiefly oriented to the arts and cultural heritage and lays down the guiding principles for the new culture period. The document addressed the conclusions and proposals in Stoa’s Ongehoord Onzichtbaar report in some detail. Many of the proposals were adopted. The guiding principle of the Notitie media- en minderhedenbeleid was that the changes in the composition of the Dutch population must be perceptible in the media in terms of programmes, programme makers and audience. At the same time, initiatives were announced to upgrade the professional character of migrant television and radio in the large cities. The content of this policy paper was almost entirely taken from the policy document on culture and the explanatory memorandum to the new Concession Act.
2.2 Media and minorities as part of present media policy
In the opinion of the government, national television is perfectly suited to fulfilling a binding function. It demands attention for the multicultural society over the whole range of programmes. National radio offers more room for segmentation, but here too, there should not be any isolated ‘ethnic minority’ or ‘native majority’ broadcasting practices on individual stations. According to the government, the core task of the public broadcaster is to offer a varied, high quality range of radio and television programmes on various subjects on open networks. The public broadcaster must guarantee diversity and quality and distinctive programming. In other words, the broadcaster must offer a faithful reflection of the various population groups in the multicultural society. In the formulation offered by the explanatory memorandum to the Concession Act: (-) ‘I think it is essential that the public broadcaster express that we live in a multicultu­ral society - both quantitatively (in number of presenters, guests, actors, etc) and qualitatively (for example, the choice of subjects and points of view). I want to give more weight to the aim of the board of management of the NOS of realising a balanced reflection of ethnic and native minorities in programming. I see a number of leverage points to lay down the task of the public broadcaster on this point. First of all, in the general remit to the public broadcaster as a whole. And also in the legally formulated profiling task and in the concession conditions to be drawn up by me. The remit of the NPS in the field of programming for minorities already incorporated in the Media Decree will be enhanced.(-) It will be laid down that the programme reinforcement budget is also available for minority-oriented programming. Within the framework of the requirement governing the informational nature of programming to be prescribed, I want to open up the possibility of also demanding answerability for performances with respect to minority programming (-) (State Secretary F. van der Ploeg for Education, Culture and Science).’
According to the government there are good opportunities for reinforcing specific ethnic minority-oriented programming at local level at this time (without relieving the national broadcaster of this task). In the four large cities, the size of the target group alone is a good reason to do this. In addition, the local broadcasting organisation is able to offer room to small-scale initiatives from among the ethnic minorities themselves. The cabinet feels that it is sensible to give a specific impulse to radio where a healthy base exists. In the four large cities local public radio has developed to a greater or lesser degree into an important platform for expression and emancipation of cultural minorities. It is estimated that over a hundred volunteer editorial offices run by ethnic minorities produce radio programmes and that the reach and appreciation they enjoy among listeners is generally high. The limited distribution capacity is an issue; the radio programmes are mostly transmitted by cable (Amsterdam South-East, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht). Given that half of all radio is accessed across the ether, and that on average ethnic minorities are even more likely to tune in to ether-based broadcasts, this is at the expense of the reach of local minority programmes. The local licensed public broadcasters and the relevant city councillors have therefore urged the cabinet to expand ether frequencies for the benefit of programmes for ethnic minority groups. The cabinet has asked the relevant municipalities and the public broadcasters in the large cities to submit a plan that guarantees qualitative use of the ether frequencies provided for local, public, minority-oriented programming. The cabinet wishes to support local minority-oriented programming within the framework of frequency allocation policy by making frequencies available to the licensed public broadcasters in the four large cities.
Parallel to a growing number of radio and television programmes oriented to ethnic minorities on local cable, chiefly produced by volunteer editorial offices, there is a poorly functioning infrastructure for professional migrant television. After Stoa formulated a proposal together with SOM-Media and MTV for a new structure, the minister of Urban Policy and Integration of Ethnic Minorities and the state secretary for Education, Culture and Science, in consultation with the four large cities, decided to introduce improvements in the situation. This was based on the advice of organisational consultancy Van Naem & Partners, which contained proposals about the establishment of a central production organisation. This organisation, which has been given the name Multiculturele Televisie Nederland (Multicultural Television Netherlands or MTNL), takes over the tasks of SOM-Media and MTV. MTNL was launched in November 2001 and produces programmes in close association with regional and local broadcasting organisations or producers for the four largest target groups: Turks, Moroccans, Surinamers and Antilleans. The goal is to broadcast forty-five minutes worth of current affairs programmes every week for each group, including fifteen minutes worth of locally produced news. The government grant for the production of local television programmes for migrants has been raised to cover this, on the proviso that the municipalities jointly provide a significant part of the budget. The Concession Act contains an article that makes it possible to reserve part of the licence fee for this.
In municipalities where the number of migrant inhabitants is relatively high, such must be optimally represented in the local broadcasting organisations’ policymaking body. The Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media) has begun to oversee this point more energetically. Following on from that, there is more attention for how representative cable programming councils are. It has become more attractive for local broadcasters to transmit programmes for minorities, since it was classified as a mandatory programme category to which local broadcasters must devote fifty per cent of their broadcast schedules since 1 January 2000.

In a memorandum on the media and minority policy11 submitted to the Lower House in November 2000, State Secretary F. van der Ploeg reported that significant progress had been achieved in various areas and that (attention to) cultural diversity in the media was developing in a positive way. He observed that the media and minorities policy is not “finished”, but that the scaffolding around it is firm. In 2000 the activities of the Meer Kleur in de Media project (Stoa and Public Broadcaster), which focuses on supporting the intercultural personnel policy that is structurally embedded at the NOS diversity agency Meer van Anders (More Diversity), while the support of up-and-coming programme makers has become a core task of Stoa. In 2001-2005 the Stimuleringsfonds Nederlands Culturele Omroepproducties (Fund for the Promotion of Cultural Broadcasting in the Netherlands) will continue its policy of training multicultural talent in association with the Maurits Binger Film Institute. Scouting of new talent will be intensified and extended to other programme categories beyond television drama, including documentaries, art programmes and children’s programmes for television and radio. Besides the reservation of extra frequencies for the local public broadcasters in the four large cities, the media and minorities policy budget has been raised from EUR 2.3 million in 2000 to EUR 3.8 million in 2001. Media and minorities policy has accordingly become an integral part of media and cultural policy.


3. The media landscape in the Netherlands
3.1 Introduction

The Netherlands has had a de facto and statutory dual system of public and commercial broadcasting organisations since 1990. At that time, the public broadcasters were forced to surrender half of their share of the audience’s viewing time. While their market share was still around 75 per cent in 1990, it has stabilised at just below 40 per cent in the past few years. Furthermore, over 85 per cent of the population of the Netherlands tunes into public television at least once a week. The commercial television stations had a joint market share of 45 per cent in 1999. The remaining percentage represents time spent by viewers watching foreign, regional and local stations and video. The use of Internet has risen sharply in the past few years, which appears, among some groups, to have been at the expense of the number of hours spent watching television. In 1999, the national public radio stations had a market share of 33 per cent, the regional public radio stations 15 per cent and the commercial radio stations 46 per cent of total listening time.


In the past ten years citizens of the Netherlands have been able to receive more and more commercial radio and television stations. The rise of Internet and digitisation of ether, cable and satellite in particular has been responsible for expanding the media on offer, which furthermore is increasingly geared to the individual preferences of users. The social functions of the media have remained reasonably constant in the course of this development: they are suppliers of information and opinion (democratic function), platforms for expression and identity forming of groups and individuals (cultural function) and the engine of economic industry – directly and indirectly through advertising (economic function). The objective of the Dutch government‘s media policy is to enable as many citizens as possible to access an independent, diverse and high quality media.


Important instruments of the media policy are financing and distribution of the public broadcaster, assistance for insolvent press bodies by the Netherlands Press Fund (Bedrijfsfonds voor de Pers), allocation of ether frequencies for broadcasting purposes, a basic cable subscription package and open access to the cable infrastructure for providers.
3.2 The public broadcaster

The public licensed broadcasting organisations are increasingly cooperating in order to ensure that they continue to reach the general public. They are also being driven by legislation. They plan the broadcasting schedules more strategically than they used to according to programme popularity. However, this has not led to more light entertainment. Rather, the public broadcaster is presenting itself with informative programmes – varying from news, current affairs and documentaries to light infotainment programmes and talk shows. The five public radio stations have been given their own 'timbre'. Radio 1 is the news and current affairs station. Radio 2 is a broad-based news, entertainment and music station. Radio 3 is a popular music station. Radio 4 is a classical music station and Radio 5 is a station with background stories and opinions with programmes for a small audience and specific target groups. The Media Act explicitly states that the public broadcaster must determine the form and content of its programmes itself. The act does lay down requirements in a general remit and an obligation to produce a full programme, comprising information, education, culture and entertainment.


The national public broadcaster as a whole was awarded a single concession on 1 September 2000, granted to the NOS and valid for ten years. That is the gist of the latest change to the Media Act12, the follow up to the ‘reorganisation act’ of 1997 and the tailpiece in the media legislation introduced by the cabinet of the Purple Coalition (Paars). The Concession Act mainly regulates national broadcasting, but it also formulated a remit for the public broadcaster that applies in principle to all levels, international, national, regional and local. The national public broadcaster consists of three types of organisation: the representative broadcasting organisations, the non-representative small licensed broadcasters and those institutions with a specific programme task: the NOS, the NPS, the Wereldomroep (Radio Netherlands International) and the educational broadcasting organisation united in EDUCOM. The Wereldomroep remains outside the concessions system. Broadcasting organisations no longer have their own license in the concession system, but a legitimisation valid for five years. The full programme regulations apply to the public broadcaster as a whole; the NOS has primary responsibility. There are cooperation agreements between the NOS and the individual broadcasting organisations, laid down in legal contracts. In the concession policy plan, the current participants must show that they will make an adequate contribution to the remit and policy resolutions of the public broadcaster, and that they will cooperate with the NOS and other broadcasters.
The organisation of the Dutch public broadcaster has its origins in compartmentalisation. As a result, the public broadcaster comprises various licensees, each with its own identity (the broadcasting organisations and the ideological small licensees) or with specific programme tasks (the NOS, the NPS, and the educational broadcaster). Forty per cent of all NPS programmes must be of a cultural nature and at least 20% must be broadcasts for ethnic minorities. The NPS is the only broadcaster that is obliged to produce programmes for minorities. In the Concession Act the current percentages for minority programmes are 20% for television and 25% for radio. The Media Act also stipulates that the public broadcasters must represent a religious, social or spiritual movement. They must have at least 300,000 paid-up members to be eligible for a place in the schedule. Membership of a broadcasting organisation was recently unlinked to the subscription to the TV and radio listings magazine published by every broadcasting organisation. The threshold for prospective broadcasters wishing to join the system is 50,000. Prospective broadcasters are also required to add something new to the existing schedules.

In 1999 the public broadcaster consisted of seven broadcasting organisations: the NCRV (Protestant), the KRO (Roman Catholic), the VARA (social-democratic), the AVRO (general), the TROS (general), the VPRO (social-critical) and the EO (reformational). Veronica left the public broadcaster in 1995 to continue as a commercial station. Prospective broadcasting organisation BNN (youth-oriented) joined the public system in 1998. Finally, the public broadcaster incorporates four types of organisations that are eligible for broadcast time. They are religious communities and communities with a spiritual foundation (including the Organisatie voor Hindoe Media (Organisation for Hindu Media or OHM), the Nederlandse Moslim Omroep (Netherlands Muslim Broadcasting Organisation or NMO), and the Boeddhistische Omroep Stichting (Buddhist Broadcasting Association or BOS)), educational institutions, political parties and the government. Stichting Etherreclame (Radio and Television Advertising Association or STER) was created to sell public radio and television broadcast time to advertisers.


3.2.1 Regional broadcasters

The public regional broadcasters are active in all provinces, on the radio and the television. The responsibility for regional broadcasting primarily rests with the provinces, but the legal framework for these public broadcast facilities are laid down in the Media Act. Two provisions of the Media Act are especially relevant within the framework of media and minorities: the objective of a regional broadcaster and the programme regulations. A regional broadcaster sets itself the goal of producing a programme for broadcast “oriented to such a degree to the satisfaction of (...) live social, cultural, religious and spiritual needs in the province, that the institution may be considered to be generally beneficial” (article 30 of the Media Act). At least 50% of the regional broadcaster’s programme must be informative, cultural and educational in nature, and more specifically it must be related to the province for which the programme is intended (article 51 of the Media Act).


As a logical consequence of these provisions the regional broadcasters must give attention to the social situation of minorities in the province in question. There are naturally significant differences between provinces in terms of the percentage of minorities in the overall population. That may lead to one regional broadcaster giving more time to these communities than other regional broadcasters. But generally in their programming, all regional broadcasting organisations have a responsibility to involve this section of the population. It is part of the public service character of these non-national public broadcasters. The ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W) consults with both the provinces (Association of Provincial Authorities or IPO) and the regional broadcasters on how to foster programming for minorities, on both regional radio and regional television. The Concession Act offers the possibility of separate financing for this. The regional broadcasters are united in Stichting Regionale Omroep, Overleg en Samenwerking (Organisation for Consultation and Cooperation in Regional Broadcasting or ROOS).
3.2.2 Local broadcasters

The first transmissions by local broadcasters date back to 1971. This type of media is growing fast in the Netherlands thanks to the high concentration of cabling. Since 1988 the local broadcasters have also been able to utilise ether-transmitting stations. Only one broadcasting organisation is granted a broadcasting license in every municipality. The programme must relate to the municipality in question. The Media Act obliges local broadcasters to focus on satisfying the live social, cultural, religious and spiritual needs in the municipality. They must also have a ‘policymaking body’ that is representative of the municipality.


On 31 December 2000 there were 320 local broadcasters in the Netherlands, collectively serving 453 municipalities. Most of them offer ether- and cable-based transmissions. Of those 320 broadcasting organisations, 306 broadcasters regularly (which means every day or every week at a fixed time) transmit radio programmes. In addition, there are 99 broadcasters that (also) transmit television programmes. No restrictions are imposed on broadcast times, but in practice these vary from a few hours a day to (an exceptional) twelve hours a day. The majority of local broadcasters are staffed by volunteers, with the exception of those in the large cities, where programmes are now realised by professional licensed broadcasters. The local broadcasters are united in the Organisatie van Lokale Omroepen in Nederland (Dutch Local Broadcasters' Organisation or Olon).
3.2.3 Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties

Stichting Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties (Fund for the Promotion of Cultural Broadcasting in the Netherlands) was established on 1 January 1988. This fund is responsible for the award of financial grants to help in the development and production of programmes that are of a special Dutch cultural nature. These programmes must be broadcast under the responsibility of one of the broadcasting corporations, the NOS or the NPS. At the beginning of 2000 the regional broadcasters were also added to this list. The fund is financed by an annual contribution from the broadcasting budget.
In principle only mainly Dutch-speaking productions are eligible for a grant. In his policy paper Media en Minderheden, the state secretary of OC&W writes that the Promotion Fund is meant for special Dutch cultural broadcast productions. As the occasion arises, the fund may subordinate the language criterion to the importance of honouring the high quality programme proposals of or about migrants living in the Netherlands. In past years the Promotion Fund has applied just such a policy a couple of times.

3.3 Commercial broadcasting in the Netherlands

At a time that law in the Netherlands did not permit commercial television, RTL 4 started transmitting from Luxembourg. RTL 5 followed in 1991. Both stations are still under the authority of the Luxembourg government. The formal Dutch commercial television stations are Yorin, SBS-6, Net 5, FOX8/TV10, The Music Factory (TMF), and Cartoon Netwerk. The commercial television stations typically rely on films, drama, quizzes, light entertainment, news and sport. There are some ten commercial radio stations in the Netherlands. Sky Radio has quickly grown into the commercial station with the largest market share. There are a number of legal rules governing commercial broadcasting. These are mostly derived from European directives and address advertising (maximum quantity, no clandestine advertising, no alcohol or tobacco), protection of the nation’s youth (notably from sex and violence on television), and percentages of Dutch, European and independent productions. Another important factor in the proper functioning of commercial broadcasting is the government’s policy with respect to the distribution infrastructures, particularly ether frequencies and the cable.


3.4 Cable and satellite

The rules governing cable exploitation were relaxed in 1997 in order to give the subscriber management centres – the cable operators – more elbowroom to operate their cable networks more commercially and to increase opportunities for them to produce their own programmes. A cable operator has a must-carry obligation with respect to a number of programmes – the basic package – it transmits in full and simultaneously to all those connected. A programming council set up in every municipality determines the composition of the basic package. The composition of the population in the municipality in question must be taken into account in the composition of this programming council. The cable manager is basically free to decide the remaining channels. It is also permitted to shorten radio and television programmes that are not part of the basic package or broadcast them at different times, which makes compilations of programmes possible. Besides these traditional programme services a cable network may also be used to transmit, among other things, subscriber television, subscriber radio, cable newspaper and cabletext. Cable managers may also offer other communication services above and beyond programme services, if this is not contrary to the provisions laid down in the Telecommunications Act (WTV). This Act allows cable managers to offer any telecommunication services with the exception of speech telephony.


In the Netherlands, hundreds of channels can be received with a satellite dish. Signals are relayed by various satellites (including Eutelsat, Arabsat, Turksat, Hotbird, Intelsat and Astra) from a great number of radio and TV stations from all over the world. These stations can be accessed in living rooms using a satellite dish. Many Dutch citizens of Moroccan and Turkish origin tune into Arab and Turkish stations. But an increasing percentage of the native majority in the Netherlands is also buying dishes, to receive foreign radio and television stations. The choice of stations offered by a satellite dish is enormous after all.
3.5 The Media Authority

The Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media), headquartered in Hilversum, has the following tasks, to name a few:



  • Regulating compliance with the various legal stipulations and regulations pertaining to radio, television, subscriber TV, cable newspaper and cabletext;

  • Allocating broadcast time and cable time respectively to national, regional and local broadcasters;

  • Fixing the amounts that the national broadcasters receive in fees for their programmes;

  • Promoting consultation, coordination and cooperation between national broadcasters and the Nederlands Omroepproductie Bedrijf (Netherlands Broadcasting Services Corporation or NOB).

Leadership of the Media Authority is in the hands of three commissioners, a chairperson and two members, appointed by Royal Decree for a period of five years. On 1 January 1999 the Media Authority beefed up its regulation of the public character of the local broadcasters. Stricter demands were introduced governing the performance of the representative body. This body is expected to acquire greater responsibilities in the day-to-day functioning of the broadcaster. The composition of the representative body is to be reviewed more regularly. There are clear opportunities to stimulate a good representation of ethnic minorities. The Media Authority and Olon are giving special attention to this aspect in their information campaign on the new regulatory regime.


3.6 Press

The most important sectors of the Dutch press are, in turn, daily newspapers, non-daily newspapers, periodicals and free distribution advertising newspapers and other free newspapers. The Netherlands Publishers Association (Nederlands Uitgeversverbond) (NUV) is the industry association of book, newspaper and periodical publishers. Created in 1996 on the back of cooperation between three industry associations the KNUB (Royal Dutch Publishers Association), the NDP (Netherlands Non-daily Newspaper Publishers’ Association) and the NOTU (Netherlands Organization of Magazine Publishers), the NUV promotes the collective interests of all affiliated publishing firms (more than 140 in number) in the Netherlands. The non-daily newspaper sector (local papers published less than six times a week) is organised in the Netherlands Non-daily Newspaper Publishers’ Association (NNP), to which three-quarters of the non-daily newspapers are affiliated. The majority of journalists are organised in the Netherlands Union of Journalists (NVJ).


3.6.1 Dailies

In 2000 seven national, 26 regional and four special-interest dailies were published in the Netherlands. In total there were 37 dailies with an independent chief editor that year. Together with around thirty alternative flags, that makes 65 titles. The total circulation of daily newspapers in the Netherlands was over 4.4 million in 2000, 55% of which were regional and 45% national dailies. Slightly more than 2% of the total circulation was formed by the specialised dailies like Het Financieele Dagblad, Agrarisch Dagblad, Cobouw and Dagblad Scheepvaart. Since 1955 the number of independent daily newspaper publishers has more than halved. In 2000 the Netherlands supported twelve independent daily newspaper publishers, while the two biggest, Holdingmij De Telegraaf and De Perscombinatie, were responsible for around 60% of total sales. Dailies publishers are very keen to curb extensive concentration in the industry. A self-regulating code stipulates that concentrations that lead to a share of one-third or more of the Dutch dailies market are not permitted. In June 1999 two new national dailies were introduced within a short space of time. Spits and Metro are freely distributed at all Dutch railway stations. Both papers achieved great success very quickly. A 1999 study by De Telegraaf (publisher of Spits) shows that the two dailies are read by approximately 700,000 people, mainly in the 18-49 age bracket, while 300,000 people in this group read both papers.


There are only four independent regional dailies; the rest are published to a greater or lesser degree by concerns. Almost all Dutch dailies are published by private and public limited companies. The exceptions that prove the rule are a couple of papers published by foundations or associations. The Dutch daily press is characterised by certain forms of cooperation in terms of the paper’s editorial content. There are press bureaus and editorial cooperatives.
The non-dailies, newspapers that are published less than six times a week and at least once a week, are a reasonably heterogeneous group. According to the NNP, there are sixty or so non-dailies that are sold for cash. In addition, there are about fifty that combine free editions with issues for cash.
3.6.2 Periodicals

An estimated 2000 plus periodicals are published in the Netherlands. The NOTU distinguishes four main groups among its members: weekly newsmagazines, programme listing magazines for radio and television, general-interest magazines and specialist journals. Over 1800 specialist journals are published under the umbrella of the NOTU. Due to their agenda-setting function, the newsmagazines are relatively important to the democratic process. The leading national newsmagazines are Elsevier, Vrij Nederland, HP/De Tijd, Hervormd Nederland and De Groene Amsterdammer.


3.6.3 The Press Fund

Since 1974 the Netherlands Press Fund (Bedrijfsfonds voor de Pers) has fulfilled an important task in the implementation of the press policy. The scope of the Press Fund and the instruments it has at its disposal to realise its objectives are laid down in the Media Act. In its advice with respect to papers for cultural minorities13, the Press Fund points out pressure points in the domain of information provision by and for minorities. The lack of information sources in their own language means that this group often misses out on information. Dutch newspapers are read by few in this group: not only due to the language issue, but also because the group finds too little in Dutch newspapers that relates to their own lives. There should be a greater emphasis on the news and multicultural aspects in reporting. Most migrant groups feel that the availability of newspapers in their own language is reasonably important, but they are not geared to life in the Netherlands. In December 2001 the cabinet approved the proposal of State Secretary Van der Ploeg of Education, Culture and Science to expand the scope of operation of the Press Fund. As a result, the fund will be able to deliver a more active contribution to modernising and transforming the press world. In a memorandum to the Lower House the cabinet outlines the trends that influence the press industry and makes proposals about pluralism in information provision by preserving and stimulating the press. The fund is permitted to assist new newspapers oriented to cultural minorities to improve the access of ethnic minorities to information. Around EUR 0.6 million a year has been made available to realise just this over a period of four years. Over three years, EUR .26 million a year has been reserved to stimulate journalism products on the Internet.


4. Cultural diversity in the media
4.1 Media content for the multicultural society

Programme- and policymakers in public broadcasting are starting to realise that more colour in the media is no bad thing, in part thanks to Stoa, the NVJ Project Office Migranten en Media and the NOS Diversity Bureau Meer van Anders. The ‘white bastion of broadcasting’ is accordingly getting some colour in its cheeks, on the set and behind the scenes. Such initiatives as the ‘black’ television soap Bradaz (NPS), the TV and radio registration of the cultural multimedia spectacle Roots en Routes (NPS, Stoa, R2001) and the new multicultural commercial radio station Colorful Radio are striking examples. Laws and rules stimulate the public-broadcasting corporations to ramp up cultural diversity in terms of programmes and personnel. Yet radio and television still fails to reflect society in a balanced way. Internet could also use a broader palette. Happily, the medium is making great and swift strides in the right direction. The worldwide web offers many opportunities for many multicultural initiatives that have no chance of being realised in ‘traditional media’.


4.1.1 Audiovisual media content

At national level the NPS is the broadcaster with the most multicultural and target group programmes. Nationwide, the Media Act obliges the NPS to devote 20% of its television schedule and 25% of its radio schedule to ethnic minorities. The NPS aims to make programming as a whole more multicultural, most notably though drama and children’s programmes. Target group television, information and education in one’s own language and directed at specific ethnic groups, is the exclusive bastion of the Allochtoon Video Circuit (Ethnic Minorities Video Circuit). The NPS broadcasts its target group radio programmes on Radio 5. Turks, Moroccans and Chinese have a daily programme in their own language; Surinamers, Antilleans/Arabians and Moluccans have a weekly programme every weekend. The NPS expects the need among first- and second-generation ethnic minorities for programmes in their own language to continue for some time. Besides the NPS, the Organisation for Hindu Media (OHM), the Netherlands Muslim Broadcasting Organisation (NMO) and the Evangelical Broadcasting Association (EO) broadcast programmes specially oriented to ethnic minorities. The other public and commercial broadcasters lack any special multicultural programming and do not broadcast any target group programmes.


Regional broadcasters (commercial and public alike) in the west of the country make programmes that focus on the large city life. The fast-evolving population makeup in the large cities has changed the potential consumer group of the local and regional media. That is one of the reasons why a number of these broadcasters are adopting intercultural characteristics to engage the new consumer groups. AT-5, RTV-West, Omroep Utrecht and RTV-Rijnmond have set the ball rolling. One problem they are confronted with is the lack of media professionals from ethnic minorities that live up to their profiles. Furthermore, at this time there are too few people from ethnic minorities who follow existing professional training programmes.



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