A guide to leading Dutch language media, including print, TV and radio, to keep you in touch with local news and events.
National Dutch newspapers
All media in the Netherlands was originally characterised by a tradition of “pillarisation” (political and religious segregation) in terms of ownership. Now that they are all privately owned, the concept of ‘pillarisation’ has been weakened, although remnants remain.
There are six major newspapers in the Netherlands:
The most widely-read newspaper is De Telegraaf, based in Amsterdam, with a circulation of approximately 700,000. It has a populist, right-wing alignment and while it has some sensationalist stories, it has a serious tone when dealing with hard news stories and sports coverage.
The second most widely-read newspaper is the Algemeen Dagblad (AD), based in Rotterdam, with a circulation of approximately 400,000. The AD has been successful in being a neutral newspaper without any political or religious persuasions.
Third in the table of circulation and based in Amsterdam is De Volkskrant which has its origins in the Catholic Church and is regarded as left-wing. This newspaper has a circulation of approximately 265,000.
Rotterdam is also home to the fourth largest newspaper, the NRC Handelsblad. This newspaper is regarded as being progressively liberal and also of a high quality. Its circulation is approximately 200,000.
The remaining two major newspapers are based in Amsterdam. Trouw has a circulation of approximately 105,000 with its origins in orthodox Protestantism, while Het Parool has its origins in social democratic political alignment, with a circulation of approximately 90,000.
De Telegraaf is the only broadsheet major national newspaper, while the other five are tabloids.
Popular with train and bus commuters are the Netherlands’ three free national newspapers: the Metro with a circulation of 505,000; Spits, with a circulation of 420,000. Both are based in Amsterdam and are tabloid in format. If you are a newcomer to the Netherlands and learning the Dutch language, reading one of these free newspapers is a good way to supplement your Dutch language course. A third free paper that some of you might be familiar with, De Pers, went out of buisness at the end of March this year.
Television in the Netherlands
Access to cable television not only allows expats to watch the Dutch TV channels but also those from various Belgian, British, French and German TV stations, all of which are included in the basic cable TV package.
The three Dutch public service broadcast TV stations are Nederland 1, 2 and 3. Nederland 1 focuses on news, sport and family programming; Nederland 2 focuses on culture, the arts, politics and religion; and Nederland 3 focuses on programmes for younger viewers and progressive programmes.
The programming for these three channels is provided by broadcasting associations. While the ‘pillarisation’ aspect in television collapsed in the 1970s, the broadcasting associations follow the same political and religious framework, albeit it again in a weakened status. Each broadcasting association has members and the level of membership determines how much air time each broadcasting association is allocated on each of the three channels.
The main broadcasting associations are AVRO with an orientation of being liberal and neutral; EO which is orthodox Protestant; KRO which is Catholic; NCRV which is Protestant; TROS which is neutral; VARA which is social democratic; and VPRO which is liberal.
Taking these political and religious alignments into account, viewers will be pleasantly surprised to see some programmes having no connection to the ownership of the broadcasting association. One example being EOs ‘Rail Away’, a highly-acclaimed series of railway journeys from around the world. The series is unique and EO has carved a niche in the marketplace with this type of programme.
The three public service broadcast stations are supported by advertising. All commercials appear in blocks between programmes and not during programmes.
Commercial TV in the Netherlands
Three international media corporations, RTL, Sanoma and Talpa Holdings, own the numerous Dutch commercial TV channels. These channels routinely programme US films, detective programmes, sitcoms and Dutch reality shows.
Unlike the three public service broadcasting channels, the commercial channels insert advertisements during the programmes. The advertising breaks can be lengthy and ‘rough around the edges’ as the boundaries between programme’s and commercial breaks are fuzzy.
The commercial channels also don’t waste time on opening and closing credits; expect one programme to be breathlessly followed by the opening scene of the next, therefore film purists who want to see the entire closing credits should expect to be disappointed.
Subtitles are used in the Netherlands on all TV channels with one exception, some Dutch children’s programmes are dubbed. Using subtitles is a significant reason why the Dutch are such successful polyglots, as they are able to learn the language of the programme being broadcast in connection with the Dutch translation. Visitors to France, Germany and Spain and the Walloon area of Belgium, where programmes are dubbed, will see the stark contrast.
Radio in the Netherlands
The structure of radio stations closely follows the format of TV stations, in terms of public and commercial ownership. The cable companies also provide the main Dutch programmes and a selection of Belgian, British, French and German radio stations. Listeners can find the contents of the radio programmes on individual station websites.
Internet in the Netherlands
It goes without saying that today the internet must be included in a review of media in the Netherlands. In addition to the information provided by Expatica on www.expatica.com, expatriates can also find news and information on living in the Netherlands on websites such as www.dutchnews.nl and iamsterdam.