Will populist TV be popular?

Will populist TV be popular?

24th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

The word "populist" is generally used as a smear against the new Dutch right wing. But the politicians and sympathisers launching the Populist Broadcasting Company are proud to use the term.

They want to produce television and radio that puts respect for Dutch culture first, and counterbalances what they see as a ruling leftwing elite.
The political party Liveable Rotterdam is behind the new national radio and television organisation, dubbed the Populist Broadcasting Company. The term populist has often been applied to the new rightwing parties and politicians that have caused a stir in the Dutch political scene in recent years. They range from murdered politician Pim Fortuyn, who tried to set in motion a "popular revolt" against the political establishment, to maverick former conservative VVD minister Rita Verdonk, to the controversial anti-Muslim MP Geert Wilders.
Although some might think Geert Wilders gets more than his share of media attention in the Netherlands, Liveable Rotterdam leader Ronald Sörensen believes the Dutch media is dominated by the left.
"All the other broadcasting organisations in the Netherlands are the mouthpiece of our socialist liberal elite. Let's have current affairs programmes where for once Mr Wilders and Ms Verdonk can feel at ease. They've constantly been blackened by the left."
Wilders and body guards © jaccodeboer
Dutch broadcasting organisations have their roots in the days when Dutch society was strictly segregated into separate religious and political "pillars", each of which had its own radio, television and press. But strangely enough, says Mr Sörensen, there has never been a specifically rightwing broadcasting organisation. The new populists champion what they claim are the views of ordinary people - critical of immigration policy, proud of Dutch culture, disenchanted with establishment politics - and they feel their agenda gets short shrift in the Dutch media.
Apart from offering rightwing politicians a comfortable platform, Mr Sörensen says the Populist Broadcasting Company also plans to screen documentaries expressing pride in Dutch culture and identity.
"I get terribly annoyed by these leftwing documentaries that make our people out to be a gang of slavers and collaborators."
However, to get airtime, broadcasting organisations need to have members - the more members, the more airtime. The Populist Broadcasting Company has to recruit 50,000 members by 1 April 2009 to be assessed by the Dutch Media Authority and gain the culture ministry's approval. So before its programmes can be make it into Dutch living rooms, the company has to prove itself to be popular as well as populist.

Michael Blass
Radio Netherlands

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