Dutch version of ‘The Voice’ hit by sex abuse scandal
Dutch talent show “The Voice Holland” faced sexual abuse allegations on Thursday which have forced the suspension of the original version of a television format that has been sold worldwide.
In the Netherlands’ first major #MeToo scandal, accusations of sexually transgressive behaviour and abuse of power at The Voice were detailed in a programme aired on Thursday.
Broadcaster RTL has suspended the show since Saturday when it was first contacted about the claims, which involve the show’s bandleader Jeroen Rietbergen and one of its coaches, rapper Ali B.
Dutch prosecutors say they have received two complaints about Ali B, including one from a former contestant. He has denied the allegations but RTL has now cut ties with him.
One contestant who says she was raped by Ali B. told a local broadcaster’s YouTube channel called BOOS that the incident took place eight years ago, when the rapper visited the studio and started to kiss her.
Nineteen other women also told BOOS about sexually intimidating behaviour by Rietbergen, whose partner Linda de Mol , sister of the show’s creator and reality TV tycoon John de Mol, broke off their relationship after the allegations surfaced.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called the allegations “unacceptable and unseemly” and called for a full investigation into the show, which first aired in the Netherlands in 2010.
– ‘Corrupt gang’ –
The allegations have cast a pall over the founding version of a show whose premise — coaches in swivelling chairs picking contestants after listening to them sing “blind” — has been sold to 150 countries.
It was an email from BOOS, which said it had been working on the story since last August, that triggered the suspension and the resignation of Rietbergen, who plays piano and leads the band on The Voice.
Rietbergen, 50, quit in a statement at the weekend that admitted “contact of a sexual nature with women involved in the programme and sexually inclined WhatsApp messages.”
John de Mol said he had been “furious” at Rietbergen, but took no action because there had been only one allegation regarding the messages at the time.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” he said of the man with whom he collaborated for nearly 11 years.
Nevertheless, the scale of the new allegations had left him “in shock”.
“I feel totally responsible. That doesn’t mean I saw it and remained silent… people were hurt. There were victims and their interests are above anything else.”
Rietbergen’s partner, television presenter Linda de Mol, said this week that she had left him and would stop working due to the “terrible nightmare”.
Her brother John is the pioneering creator of the format that is broadcast from Afghanistan to the United States and has been nominated for dozens of Emmys, as well as shows like Big Brother.
One of The Voice Holland’s coaches, Anouk, quit this week after branding the show a “corrupt gang”.
British television firm ITV Studios bought the rights to the show in 2015 from de Mol.
ITV Studios said in a statement that it had a “zero-tolerance policy towards the type of behaviour that is said to have taken place” and had launched an investigation.
Victims or witnesses to abuse on The Voice Holland could contact investigators via a secure webpage, it said.