Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 13 January 2009
Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.
Dutch power in German hands
All today's Dutch papers have plenty to say about the news that German energy company RWE is taking over Dutch firm Essent. It appears to be a takeover with many ramifications. De Volkskrant reports that "Dutch companies say they are too small to survive in a liberalised energy market" and comments that the 9.3 billion euro deal will make a number of Dutch provinces and municipalities "filthy rich".
AD points out that a few years ago such a takeover was seen as "a doom scenario" and "a sell out" but is now being touted as a "dream scenario", with the German energy giant presenting itself as "a partner, a neighbour and a friend".
De Telegraaf is not so sure though. While acknowledging that it's only the commercial side of the business that's being taken over, the paper is still worried about the impact on the Netherlands: "RWE says the takeover will make very little difference to staff and customers but history has taught us that it’s always easier for a company to stick the knife into a foreign subsidiary if cutbacks need to be made."
The takeover also has environmental consequences. De Volkskrant reports that the World Wide Fund for Nature is considering dumping Essent as its main sponsor because of the German takeover. "Unlike Essent, RWE's environmental record is mediocre at best ... and we only want our name associated with pioneers."
Labour MP Diederik Samsom puts it a little more forcefully: "RWE is a dirty great big polluter. It still makes widespread use of brown coal - just about the filthiest fossil fuel around."
Justice ministry hit by Wikipedia scandal
De Volkskrant and De Telegraaf report that someone at the Dutch Justice Ministry has been up to no good on the open-source internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.
It seems that last year the entry on the Prophet Mohammad was changed to brand the Prophet as "a warmonger" and Islam as "the most murderous ideology of all time". The culprit can be traced back to an IP address (computer identification number) at the ministry.
"Such remarks go beyond all bounds of decency", blasts De Telegraaf's editorial. "Civil servants being shamelessly offensive about a religion is utterly indefensible ... and what makes it even more painful is the fact that staff at the very same ministry had already demonstrated the same scandalous behaviour."
De Volkskrant explains that over a year ago, an unidentified civil servant at the Justice Ministry published an offensive joke about murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. That resulted in a blanket ban on Wikipedia at the ministry, but it had to be lifted after two months because the civil servants needed access to the website in order to do their jobs properly.
Whether they are actually doing their jobs properly is another matter De Telegraaf has an opinion about. "It would appear that civil servants have plenty of time to sit behind their desks and play Internet pranks," it mutters.
Dutch low on financial savvy
NRC-next reveals that the Dutch aren't terribly smart when it comes to money. "Most Dutch people don't understand even the most basic economic rules", it says, "and that costs them a lot of money." The article is based on research at Utrecht University where economist Martin de Rooij quizzed 1500 Dutch households on economics and finance. Only 40 percent succeeded in answering five simple questions correctly.
De Rooij was surprised by his own results. "I was surprised that people without financial knowledge often go to friends or neighbours for advice on things like mortgages." He reckons the reason for their ignorance is simple "A lot of people simply don't find finance fun or interesting. And in the meantime the financial world has been becoming ever more complex. That is something the education system hasn't responded to."
His advice to us poor souls who don't understand the wheeling and dealing going on around us? "Don't buy any financial products you don't understand. And don't just look at returns but look at costs as well. Returns are seldom certain, while costs are often fixed."
Criticism of Dutch designated driver campaign
Trouw reports that a number of experts are up in arms about the government's campaign to combat drink driving, which centres on the system of having a designated driver – known as the BOB - to get everyone home safely. The paper reports: "The campaign itself is a success. There has been a significant drop in driving under the influence." Eight years ago there were 200 drink-driving related deaths. In 2007, that figure had dropped to 95. So what's the problem?
"The emphasis is too much on drink - a lot of drink - and fun," explains an expert, referring to one advert in particular in which the designated driver delivers a passenger safely to his front door who is too drunk to even stand up. "It's a disgraceful spectacle!" she exclaims. "As if you have to be completely drunk to be driven home by a BOB."
She is backed up by a researcher at the Trimbos Institute: "The campaign as it stands is at odds with the public health objective of reducing alcohol consumption."
The Transport Ministry is having none of it, however. "This is a road safety campaign, not a campaign against drinking," insists a spokesperson. "It's all about preventing accidents caused by drunk drivers." The campaign has been developed in collaboration with the alcohol industry, but the ministry denies that the industry has influenced the content.
20 years of Lingo
AD puts the spotlight on the early-evening TV game show Lingo, which is celebrating 20 years on the box. The paper reports that the show - which combines a word quiz with a luck-of-the-draw bingo game - is not likely to be consigned to the museum any time soon. "The broadcaster TROS still regards the programme as one of its crown jewels and the viewing figures are over a million."
The news hasn't always been so good though. A few years ago, Lingo's future was hanging by a thread and the broadcaster seemed determined to scrap the show in favour of something more modern. But the national outcry, supported by the prime minister himself, turned the tide.
The head of public TV channel Netherlands One thinks a valuable lesson was learned "Lingo turned out to be a national institution, one that you leave well alone. I don't accept the criticism that Lingo attracts too few young viewers - as if there's something wrong with older viewers."
So what's the secret of the show's success? Presenter Lucille Werner reckons "The show is straightforward and honest. It is what it is. Simple. No nonsense. No manipulation. I'd happily present it for another 20 years!"
Whether she'll get the chance remains to be seen: "We'll go on producing it till 2010 for sure - then we'll see," say the schedulers cagily.
[Radio Netherlands / Jacqueline Carver / Expatica]