node your homework
This node will chart all aspects of the Dutch television media landscape, offering a full overview and introduction to the history and status quo. The node will look at the particulars of the Dutch media system through exploring the history behind it. It will further offer a superficial introduction to all the current television stations, and it will arrange the stations into context through the use of new statistics. The node will finally briefly touch on the laws regulating ownership and content of the media.
A concise history of Dutch television media
Historically, Dutch broadcast media have been ahead of their time: The first regular pre-announced radio broadcasts happened as early as 1919 (Corver 1928) whereas pre-announced broadcasts did not start in the US until mid-1920 (Minnen n.d.) and in the UK in 1922 (BBC 2001).
The history of Dutch television media is closely intertwined with the history of the Dutch Royal Philips company. The Philips laboratory for Natural Sciences was experimenting with television transmitters in Amsterdam as early as 1931. (Limburg 1997) Around this time, television technology was being developed simultaneously in the United Kingdom, the USA and in Japan. (Genova n.d.)
At the 1938 yearly exposition in Utrecht, the Dutch audiences made their first contact with television, but the progress was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. When the war finished, development was recommenced. In the middle of March 1948, regular television test broadcasts started, under the supervision of Philips. These broadcasts were done from Eindhoven, and initially for a local audience only. (Limburg 1997) The complete expansion of the re-transmitter station network was completed in 1960 (Minnen, n.d.) guaranteeing good quality television signals for the whole country. The transmissions were funded by a Licensing fee, an extension of the existing license fee for Radio. Regular colour broadcasts started in 1968. (Limburg 1997)
From 1951, there was only one channel in the Netherlands: Nederland 1. In 1964, the channel was joined by Nederland 2 and TV Noordzee. The latter was the first pirate television station, which transmitted from an artificial island off the coast of Holland, in the North Sea, both to Holland and to the UK (Emmerson 1998). TV Noordzee was killed off after it was made illegal by Dutch law.
In 1969, the television and radio ownerships were combined into the NOS, paving the way for television and radio as it is seen in the Netherlands today. Between 1969 and today, a range of new broadcast organisations are introduced, primarily transmitting on the Nederland 1 and 2 channels.
In 1981, people discovered it was possible to transmit pirate television via the newly installed cable television networks. Mokum TV was born: When the NOS ended their transmission at about 11 PM, the pirate-stations would start transmitting their programmes throughout the night. Initially, the channels would merely be video broadcasts of pornography. However, several channels desired to be something more, and local television programming was born. Through a range of adversities, the local cable channels finally gained acceptance, and had become a legal, regular part of the broadcasting landscape by the mid-1990s. (Mokum TV n.d.)
The next large step in Dutch television was the introduction of cable television. In addition to the two national channels, cable introduced channels such as Sky TV, MTV and Super Channel. In 1988, Nederland 3 joined these networks, but decided to stick to the polyform model, by having different broadcasters transmit on the same channel. (Contant 2000)
In the Mid-80s, yet more Dutch channels entered the picture. Commercial broadcasters were illegal in Holland, but foreign commercial stations were able to broadcast. The first of these channels was RTL Veronique was a case in point: It was made in Luxembourg, but was a commercial channel aimed at the Dutch market. (NOS n.d.a)
The NOS: Nederlandsche Omroep Stichting (Dutch Broadcasting Organisation) is the result of a long process, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The system is what makes the Dutch broadcasting landscape unique from any other system in the world, because it uses a so-called polyform broadcasting scheme. (NOS n.d. b)
Several radio broadcasters went bankrupt between 1919 and 1924, because the transmitting equipment was very expensive, and the business models were based on the public's willingness to support the channels economically. To counter the economical instability, the Hilversimsche Draadloze Omroep, HDO (Wireless Broadcasting of Hilversum) was started. This was an entirely commercial business, which exclusively transmitted current affair programmes without pronounced ethnic, ethical, political or religious overtone. The result was that the HDO programming was largely non-offensive and middle-of-the-road in its outlook..
Historically, the Dutch society has had socio-religious connections of various types. The Dutch Catholic Rabbit-breeding Organisation is an obscure but nevertheless real example of this trend. It seems natural therefore that this aspect of society should influence the Dutch media from an early stage . From late 1924, the Nederlandsche Christelijke Radio Vereeniging (NCRV), started renting broadcasting slots from the HDO. They were soon followed by the Katholieke Radio Omroep (KRO), the Vereeniging Arbeiders Radio Amateurs (VARA) and the Centrale Commissie voor het Vrijzinnig Protestantisme (VPRO). (Minnen n.d.)
This rather complex interdivision of transmission slots and different unions who are responsible for the content is not unique in radio: A similar interdivision was soon also found in the television world: By 1951, the Dutch radio-broadcasting companies had started the Nederlandsche Televisie Stichting (NTS), and the so-called polyform system continued in the world of television.
The current media landscape
The current national media landscape is split in two between the public and commercial broadcasters. The public broadcast companies transmit on Nederland 1, 2 and 3.
Nederland 1: The broadcasting companies tied to the Nederland 1 channel are Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep (AVRO), NCRV and KRO. The AVRO is a politically and religiously independent broadcaster. The channel has a lot of community-related and cultural programming, along with soaps and other light entertainment (AVRO 2002)
The KRO and NCRV are also a general-audience programmes. Their names considered, the contents have surprisingly little to do with religions, although the ethical and moral standards of these broadcasters tend to be slightly higher, and be more evident in the choice of programming than your average broadcaster. The KRO and NCRV broadcast general affairs programmes, consumer programmes, comedy series and other fairly light programming.(KRO 2002 and NCRV 2002)
Nederland 2 is currently the most popular television channel: It was was seen by 91.5 percent of the Dutch population in November 2002. (SKO 2002a)
The second Dutch channel has similar programming to NL1, but with different broadcasters. The Televisie en Radio Omroep Stichting (TROS) is an independent broadcasting organisation, like the AVRO. The TROS has a variety of programmes, primarily towards the more serious end of the scale, under the motto "The biggest family in the Netherlands". The TROS focuses on family, culture and children's programming. (TROS 2002)
Bart's News Network is a new broadcaster with a peculiar goal: The broadcaster aims exclusively at youth and young people, with current affairs programmes, news programmes and popular programming for youth. They only broadcast a few hours a week, but their popularity is immense within its target audience. (BNN 2002)
The Evangelische Omroep (EO) is the last of the broadcasters on NL2. With the motto "Close to God and close to people", The EO is the only broadcasting organisation that still uses religious overtones in it its programming. (EO 2002)
Nederland 3 also has three broadcasters under its wings: The VARA contains a selection of news and current affairs programmes, along with light entertainment programming.(VARA, 2002) The Vereniging Progresieve Radio Omroep (VPRO) is aimed at the general audience. The channel includes film, cultural, society and other aspects of public cultural life. The channel also has some children's programming. (VPRO 2002)
And finally, Nederland 3 transmits the broadcasts made by the NOS: Apart from being the governing body which coordinates broadcasting on the three NL channels, the NOS also makes its own programming, and it stands for a substantial portion of the news, sports, and public service broadcasts, in addition to a special news broadcast for youth. (NOS 2002)
This year it is ten years ago that it became legal for Dutch commercial channels to send from the Dutch mainland, and the media world in Holland has changed drastically these ten years. A handful of important actors have joined the struggle for viewers:
RTL4 is the channel that evolved out of RTL Veronique. It is a mixture between the UK Channel 4 and Channel 5 channels, in that it carries a variety of less-than serious, but massively popular programming. It is currently the most-seen commercial channel in the Netherlands, with 87.7 percent of the Dutch population watching at some point in November 2002. (RTL 2002a). RTL5 started off as a clone of RTL4, but the two channels were unable to compete with each others, and the owners soon realised that something needed doing: RTL5 changed, and is now primarily a news and sports channel. It also features talk shows, soaps, reality TV shows and late-night erotic television. (RTL 2002b). Yorin is also part of the RTL conglomerate, and offers a variety of entertainment programmes aimed primarily at young viewers through programmes such as Big Brother. (RTL 2002c)
SBS6 was the first Dutch commercial television station based in Holland. It offers primarily sports programming, soap series, quiz shows and films. (SBS 2002a)
NET 5 is part of SBS broadcasting, and focuses on films and teen series such as Buffy the Vampire slayer and Sex and the City. (SBS 2002b), while V8 basically is the same thing, also owned by SBS, but aimed at slightly more mature audiences. (SBS 2002c)
KinderNet is the Dutch version of Nickelodeon, owned by Viacom. Much of the programming is translated versions of Nickelodeon programming, but they have a fair amount of original programming as well. (Viacom 2002)
Veronica is a television channel with mainly lifestyle programming. Fashion, sex, popular music and movies (Veronica 2002)
Other channels that go out on cable include FOX network, Discovery channel, National Geographic channel, Fox Kids, Eurosport and TMF, The Music Factory, the Dutch version of MTV.
Legal restrictions on the media
The provision of public broadcasting and licensed private radio stations were regulated with the introduction of the 1988 Media Act. This act set up certain parameters regarding the content of public service broadcast: 25% should be news, 25% entertainment, 20% culture and 5% education. The act also introduced a new regulatory body, the independent Dutch media regulation board.
Private television broadcasting was legalised by the updated act of 1990, in an effort to curb the cross-border transmissions such as RTL Veronique. Interestingly, commercial media were limited to cable only: The ether remained the domain of the public broadcasting.
Simultaneously, laws designed to ban media conglomerates were passed: any broadcaster with over 60% of the potential audience cannot also own a newspaper with over 25% of the national reach, and that shareholder changes of more than 5% of a media company's shares, must be publicly announced.
The Dutch television media have always been special, in that it has always been diverse: Even when there only was one television channel, a variety of broadcasters were active. This offered more people the chance to make their voices heard.
In a time of commercialism and financial adversity, the Dutch public broadcasting has stood the test of time remarkably well, both in the eyes of the public directly, and when evaluated based on viewer figures. The fact that public channels can compete with – and even beat – populist commercial broadcasters is remarkable, and truly proves that the system of diversity within the channels must make a positive impact on the media as a whole.
Sources consulted or cited
Corver (1928) Radiogeschiedenis volgens Corver http://home.luna.nl/~arjan-muil/radio/corver.html
Minnen, S (no date) De geschiedenis van de radio en televisie http://www.xs4all.nl/~mattew/html/radio-gs.htm
Mokum TV (no date) Geschiedenis lokale TV in Amsterdam http://www.mokumtv.nl/geschied.htm
NOS (no date a) De commercie krijgt een voet
tussen de deur. http://www.omroep.nl/nos/gsd/commercie.html
NOS (no date b) Eerste prille begin van
samenwerking tussen omroepen. http://www.omroep.nl/nos/gsd/bestel.html
Emmerson, A (1998) 405 alive: Pirate television history. http://www.bvws.org.uk/405alive/history/pirate_tv.html
Contant, P (2000) De TV-oorlog: de keerzijde van tien jaar commerciële televisie in Nederland. Utrecht: Kosmos-Z&K
Limburg, D (Nov 13 1997) Geschiedenis van de televisie
in Nederland. http://www.nrc.nl/W2/Lab/Profiel/Televisie/geschiedenis.html
Genova, T (no date) Television History, the first 75 years: pre-1935 http://www.tvhistory.tv/pre-1935.htm
BBC (2001) From royal dramas to wartime: 1922-46 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1204729.stm
TROS (2002) TROS mission statement. http://www.trosweb.nl/?url=PHP/html/missionstatement
NCRV (2002) NCRV Home. http://info.omroep.nl/ncrv/home?nav=ijcgFsHtGPJqK
AVRO (2002) AVRO Omroep. http://www.omroep.nl/avro/
VARA (2002) VARA informatie. http://info.omroep.nl/vara?nav=uefiFsHzGHEsEdF
VPRO (2002) VPRO op het net. http://www.vpro.nl/
SKO (2002a) Kijkcijfers Maandberijk. http://www.kijkonderzoek.nl/kijkcijfers/kijkcijfers.php?mb
SKO (2002b) Kijkcijfers tijdvakken 18-24 http://www.kijkonderzoek.nl/kijkcijfers/mt-0-0.html
SKO (2002c) Kijkcijfers tijdvakken 02-26 http://www.kijkonderzoek.nl/kijkcijfers/mt-1-0.html
EO (2002) Evangelische Omroep. http://www.eo.nl/home/html/home.jsp
KRO (2002) Vereniging KRO http://www.kro.nl/vereniging/index.asp
BNN (2002) BNN Meest Gestelde Vragen http://www2.omroep.nl/bnn/Bnn/Faq/index.html
NOS (2002a) Nederlandse Omroep Stichting online http://www.omroep.nl/nos/noshome/index.html
RTL (2002a) RTL4 experience http://www.rtl.nl/experience/rtl4/
RTL (2002b) RTL5 experience http://www.rtl.nl/experience/rtl5/
RTL (2002c) Yorin experience http://www.rtl.nl/experience/yorin/
SBS (2002a) sbs6 online http://www.sbs6.nl/
SBS (2002b) Net 5 online http://www.sbsnet.nl/sbsnet/0,1001,2132,00.html
SBS (2002c) V8 op het net http://www.v8tv.nl/
Viacom (2002) Kindernet algemene voorwaarden http://www.kindernet.nl/kindernet/content.php?content=alg_voorwaarden
Veronica (2002) Veronica Televisie Informatie http://www.veronica.nl/modules.php?name=news&site=televisienieuws&sid=624