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The Netherlands (Holland) - TV, Radio and Newspapers

Television and Radio

Public service broadcasting in the Netherlands originated in a system whereby the government subsidized the establishment of broadcasting stations by religious and political groups. Although there is little direct funding of these stations now, the public broadcasting stations are still dominated by various non-profit broadcasting organisations, include TROS (general programming), VARA (Social Democratic), AVRO (general programming), NCRV (Protestant) and EO (Dutch Reformed), KRO (Catholic) and VPRO (social commentary) which are allocated broadcasting time in proportion to their numbers of members by the public broadcasting body, Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS). Apart from EO, which mainly broadcasts Christian programs, most of these organisations have diversified from their original focus and transmit a variety of entertainment and news programmes. The public broadcasting stations are largely funded by taxes and commercials, although advertising is strictly regulated and only allowed in specified timeslots between programmes.

There are three national public service TV channels: Nederland 1, which transmits a variety of entertainment, sports and news programmes, Nederland 2 which mainly shows programmes on culture, arts and politics, and Nederland 3, a progressive station which is targeted at younger people. Various digital channels being established by the public broadcasters are now being transmitted under the title of Nederland 4. In addition to these national channels, there are several government-funded provincial and regional TV channels.

Commercial broadcasting has been allowed in the Netherlands since the late 1980s, and there are now a number of national commercial channels mainly owned by two companies and showing both news and entertainment programmes: RTL and SBS. Various international commercial companies also broadcast within the Netherlands via cable and satellite services, showing local versions of channels such as Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Eurosport, MTV, Nickelodeon, and the Discovery Channel. Most TV programmes are shown undubbed in their original languages in the Netherlands, with Dutch sub-titles used.

There are a dozen or so national radio stations in the Netherlands transmitting news, music and chat programmes, which include five national public service radio channels (Radio 1, Radio 2, 3FM, Radio 4, Radio 5). Popular commercial stations include Noordzee FM, Radio 538 and Sky Radio. There are also many provincial and regional radio stations, as well as stations transmitting from surrounding countries.

The Netherlands has a media classification scheme (Kijkwijker), operated by the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media (NICAM). This uses graphical symbols to indicate whether TV programmes or cinema movies includes, for example, violence, swearing, sexual images or discriminatory content, and classifies films and TV programmes in terms of the minimum age for viewing, 12, 16 or below. The age classifications must be observed by cinemas in terms of their admissions policy and by companies selling or renting videos.

Useful links:

Program guide (Dutch):

Cable and Satellite TV

Cable TV is very popular in the Netherlands, with an estimated 97% of households subscribing to a cable TV service. Cable is available in all but the most remote areas of the country, and there are around 35 channels currently available, with the specific selection varying by region. These channels include many transmitted from other European countries, as well as international commercial stations. The increasing use of fibre-optic networks is creating potential for massive expansion in terms of numbers of channels, as well as provision of additional services such as interactive TV, high-speed internet and cable-based telephony services.

The Cable TV market is dominated by a few large companies: UPC Nederland, Essent Kabelcom, NV Casema and Multikabel. These companies offer combined TV, internet and telephony packages, and there is increasing standardisation and sharing of networks, so that use of cable services is interchangeable between different providers. Despite the domination of the market by a few key players, the Cable TV market is heavily regulated in the Netherlands, providing a high level of protection for consumers.

For people who require an even wider selection of channels or who don’t have access to Cable TV, Satellite TV is also available. The Canal+ digital satellite package, used with a decoder, includes all the public broadcasting and national commercial TV stations as a basic package, with optional extras including international stations such as Discovery and Eurosport.

A recent development in the Netherlands is a wireless digitenne (digitenna) service, developed by a consortium of public and commercial broadcasters, which uses a small antenna and DVB-T digital decoder to gain access to 26 TV digital channels and 19 radio channels. It is claimed that sound and picture quality is better than that of Cable or Satellite TV, but there is little evidence of any widespread take-up of this technology.

Useful links:

Newspapers and Magazines

There is a very high level of newspaper readership in the Netherlands; it has been estimated that the country has the highest number of subscribers to daily newspapers worldwide, with a combined newspaper circulation of 4.8 million per day in 2003. As well as 8 national Dutch-language newspapers, there are numerous local and regional newspapers. There are currently three newspapers published in English: the Amsterdam Times, the Hague Times and the Rotterdam Times. The majority of Dutch newspapers receive their news from the ANP news agency.

Although many of the newspapers were originally tied to political parties or labour unions, most are now privately owned but still reflect their origin in the way that news is reported, and are targeted at different sections of the population. The national newspaper with the largest circulation is the conservative liberal De Telegraaf, with other widely-read national papers including the left-centre De Volkeskrant, the Protestant Trouw and the progressive liberal NRC Handelsblad. The Het Financieele Dagblad focuses on business and financial news. There are also two free daily newspapers given out to commuters, the Metro and Spits, with the latter published by the same company as De Telegraaf. The Algemeen Dagblad, which until recently was the third most widely read national paper, has now been merged with several local papers and reports both national and local news.

Numerous magazines to suit all ages and areas of interest are also published in the Netherlands, including a number of news magazines, many women’s magazines and children’s comics. The Amsterdam Weekly is an English-language magazine which focuses mainly on events listings and reviews.

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