MPs criticise Radio Netherlands cuts
25 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Faced with drastic budget cuts, MPs railed to the support of Radio Netherlands on Monday as Media State Secretary Medy van der Laan unveiled her economising and revamp plans for the Dutch media industry.
The Dutch world service was shocked in June when an efficiency report recommended the station lose between 57.6 percent and 83.5 percent of its government funding. The latter would deprive the public broadcaster of about EUR 40.1 million and effectively mean the end of the award-winning station.
But Radio Netherlands hit back against claims that it was out-of-date, criticising current affairs programme Nova — which reported on the recommendations — for focusing on one of several aspects in the report, giving an incomplete and unfair picture of the situation.
MPs said on Monday that Van der Laan’s cost cuts at the world service were too severe. A parliamentary motion was passed demanding the state secretary only be granted permission to scrap Radio Netherlands tasks if she first discusses the plans with other involved ministries.
Despite the motion, the long-term future for Radio Netherlands — which broadcasts programmes overseas in Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian and Papiamento — was not immediately clear. The station has already embarked on anticipatory cost-cutting measures.
Meanwhile, Medy van der Laan said she is prepared to discuss the division of air time between the nation’s pubic broadcasters. Air time is currently divided based on membership totals, but MPs believe the system is outdated because the public has become less inclined to take out memberships.
It also appears that the time when political parties supported broadcasters based on a type of sectarianism has passed. Discussions over public broadcasting have been stalled for decades in the Netherlands. Various political parties have claimed that Labour PvdA (which supported Vara) and the Christian Democrat CDA (KRO and NRCV) were to blame for the impasse.
But in Monday’s parliamentary debate over the media budget, the PvdA now appears prepared to debate the matter, an NOS news report said.
Both the Lower House of Parliament and the Cabinet now appear willing to examine another system, but Van der Laan said she wanted to wait for a commission report in the Spring of 2004 before making any decisions. She has promised all Dutch broadcasters will survive in the new system.
The state secretary’s media policy — which paves the way for large scale savings in coming years by engaging in co-operative relationships — was generally supported by the parliament.
Despite the forthcoming support, Democrat D66 MP Bert Bakker complained that the savings were directed at programme makers, rather than the scrapping of management positions and the improvement of efficiency.
Among the state secretary’s other plans, public broadcasters might soon be forced to sign performance contracts to allow Van der Laan better ascertain if they are performing adequately. She wants the industry to offer more quality and target specific groups, but keep ratings figures the same.
“(But) the state secretary wants everything at the same time. She will have to make choices,” Liberal VVD MP Frank de Grave said.
Van der Laan wants to see more Dutch drama on television, increased attention on migrants and youths and a greater number of female experts in various documentary programmes. Her aims have met with parliament support.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news