Dutch public broadcasting system

This article is about the public broadcasting system of the Netherlands. For the organization known as NPO, see Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (organization).

The Dutch public broadcasting system (Dutch: Nederlands publieke omroepbestel) is a set of organizations that together take care of public service television and radio broadcasting in the Netherlands. It is composed of a foundation called Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO), which acts as its governing body, and a number of public broadcasters. The Dutch Media Act 2008 regulates how air time is divided and puts the administration of the public broadcasting system in the hands of the Board of Directors of NPO.[1]

In addition to the national broadcasters, there are also regional broadcasters and local broadcasters in the Netherlands.


Unlike most other countries' public broadcasting organizations – which are either national corporations (such as the BBC and France Télévisions / Radio France), federations of regional public-law bodies (for example, ARD, SRG SSR) or governmental and member-based institutions with their own channels and facilities (such as PBS) – those in the Netherlands are member-based broadcasting associations that share common facilities. This arrangement has its origins in the system developed in the Netherlands early in the 20th century, known as pillarisation. Under this system the different religious and political streams of Dutch society (Catholics, Protestants, socialists, etc.) all have their own separate associations, newspapers, sports clubs, educational institutions, and also broadcasting organizations.

The stated aim is to give a voice to each social group in the multicultural diversity that is Dutch society. The number of hours allocated to each broadcaster corresponds, roughly, to the number of members each organization can recruit (although this does not apply to NOS and NTR – see below). Since 2000, the system has been financed out of general taxation rather than from broadcast receiver licence fees. This is supplemented by a limited amount of on-air advertising, which has been allowed since 1967.

Nearly all viewers in the Netherlands receive most of their TV via cable or satellite systems. Regional public TV exists in parallel to the national system described below. Commercial television in the Netherlands began in 1989, with the Luxembourg-based RTL 4. In 1992, the government of the Netherlands legalised commercial TV, and many new commercial channels have become established since then.


Every year, the Dutch public broadcasting system is allocated funds from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In 2008 the allocation was 738 million Euro [2] with revenues in 2009 from advertising totalling 196 million Euro.[3] The cost to each Dutch citizen is approximately 116 Euro per year, which is much less than the BBC in the United Kingdom (142 GBP, approx 200 Euro), but more than VRT in Flemish Belgium (49 Euro).


The closed system (1920–1960)

Since the very beginning in the early 1920s, public broadcasting in the Netherlands has been split into different broadcasting associations with their members composed of listeners and viewers. These associations were based on the different ideological sections of Dutch society, called Verzuiling (pillarisation). Catholics, Protestants and Socialists were the first groups to create their own institutions, including schools, hospitals, trades unions and political parties. When radio in the Netherlands started in the 1920s the existing groups quickly created their own broadcasting associations, producing programmes for the primary radio network, Hilversum 1. The first to start was the liberal AVRO, founded as radio broadcaster Hilversumsche Draadlooze Omroep (HDO) by the NSF transmitter factory in Huizen on 8 July 1923. The first regular radio broadcasts started on 21 July 1923.[4] Airtime was rented to the various religious and political radio organisations—the Protestant NCRV, the Roman Catholic KRO, the Socialist VARA and the liberal Protestant VPRO. Each audience group was faithful to its own broadcasting company. For example, it was considered unthinkable for a Protestant to listen to KRO programming. The programmes were funded by the associations' members. KRO and NCRV started their own station in 1927 with a transmitter also located in Huizen and built by the NSF.

In 1930 the government regulated equal airtime for all organisations on the two stations, and the semi-public broadcasting system was born. As a result, AVRO lost most of its airtime then (50%) to VARA and VPRO.

The radio licence fee was introduced by the Nazi occupation during World War II; the different broadcasting groups were urged by the Government to co-operate more with each other, and the Netherlands Radio Union (Dutch:Nederlandse Radio Unie) was formed, producing joint programmes.

The Netherlands Radio Union (Nederlandse Radio Unie) was one of 23 founding organisations of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in 1950. (The rôle of Dutch representative to the European Broadcasting Union was later inherited by NOS, formed in 1969, and has since September 2002 been the responsibility of NPO.)

1951 saw the introduction of television, and a similar union was founded: the Netherlands Television Foundation (Nederlandse Televisie Stichting), supplying studios and facilities for the associations. These broadcasts would air the Nederland 1 channel; a second channel, Nederland 2, launched in 1964.

The closed system opens up (1960–1990)

Test card used by NPO from 1978 until 1988

With the arrival of illegal offshore commercial radio stations, such as Radio Veronica in 1960 and Radio Noordzee in 1964, Hilversum 3 was launched in 1965 to provide a legal alternative and to steer audiences towards the public service channels. Hilversum 3, along with the other two networks, were renamed as Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 towards the late 1980s.

In 1967 a Broadcasting Act was passed, providing for an official framework to supply the public with information, entertainment, culture and education, with time allocated to appointed broadcasting associations based on the number of members each association had. This allowed other organisations access to the public system, including the former commercial unlicensed broadcasters TROS and Veronica and the evangelical Christian EO to diversify programming. Advertising revenue was added, handled by an independent agency called STER.

The Netherlands Radio Union (NRU) and the Netherlands Television Foundation (NTS) merged to form the NOS, charged with providing news and sport programmes as well as with general co-ordination of the public system.[5]

A new Media Act in 1988 meant that broadcasters were no longer obliged to use production facilities supplied by the NOS. These facilities were spun off into a new private company, NOB. Programme quotas were introduced: associations had to produce:

A new media regulator (Commissariaat voor de Media) was created to regulate the public and private networks. The regulator could impose fines, with a programming fund designed to encourage cultural broadcasts. New rules for the cable industry were also introduced: the public networks were designated must-carry status.[5]

The start of private media (1990–2000)

In anticipation of the launch of new commercial satellite channels, a third television network, Nederland 3, launched in April 1988. Luxembourg-based RTL-Véronique began broadcasting in October 1989. In 1992, the government of the Netherlands legalised commercial television, and a number of new commercial channels were established. As a result, the market share of public television had fallen from 85% to 50% by 1994. Veronica decided to leave the public system, after 20 years to become a commercial broadcaster. By 1996 more private channels from RTL and SBS had further reduced the market share of the public networks to 40%.[5]

With the change in the television landscape, changes were made to strengthen the public sector. Its financial revenues were improved by an increase in advertising time and the indexation of the licence fee to the cost of living. In 1995 the programming duties of the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation, NOS) were split in two, with the creation of the NPS (Netherlands Programming Foundation).[6] NOS was charged with providing news, sport and coverage of important live events, while the NPS provided cultural and children's programming.

The previous NOS management was replaced by a three-man board, charged with developing strategies and responsibility for all public output. Programming co-ordinators were appointed for each of the television and radio networks, and channel identities were created, largely replacing the varying on-air presentation of the pillar broadcasters. The broadcasting associations also have a degree of input through a Supervisory Board.

The market share of the public networks stabilized in 1999 at 38%,[5] with the entry of a new broadcasting association, the first in 25 years. BNN (Bart's News Network, later Bart's Neverending Network) replaced Veronica as programme supplier to teenagers and young adults.

Diversification, expansion and the creation of the NPO (2000–2010)

Under the new "open system" any company can become a broadcasting company and obtain radio and TV airtime. The only requirement is to request official status from the government and to have enough members. Broadcasting companies in the Netherlands must ensure every year they have enough members to retain their official status, and most of them sell TV guides or other magazines and make every subscriber a member of their organization.

Many people question whether the current system is still appropriate in this age of digital broadcasting. There were plans in the run-up to the 2002 general election to change the way broadcast companies are selected, and to abolish the member-based system completely. Vocal critics included Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated leader of his own right-wing party. However, currently the system is still the way it always has been.

Prior to the 2002 reorganization, the Dutch public broadcasting system was managed by NOS. In 2002, it was put under control of "Nederlandse Publieke Omroep" (Dutch Public Broadcasting foundation), abbreviated as NPO.[7] According to Article 2.2 of the Dutch Media Act of 2008, NPO was appointed as the governing organization of the public broadcasting system of the Netherlands until 2020.

From September 2010, Minister of Culture and Education Ronald Plasterk approved the entry of new broadcasting associations PowNed and Wakker Nederland (WNL) into the public broadcasting system. Another association, MAX, was given full recognition and can increase its broadcasting hours. Conversely, LLiNK was withdrawn and no longer has access. Meanwhile, the NPS, Teleac and the RVU institutions merged into one public broadcaster, the NTR, delivering cultural, educational, current affairs and children's programmes to the public system.[8]

Cuts to the public system (2010–present)

On 18 January 2010, Henk Hagoort, chairman of the NPO Management Board, announced a scaling back of the number of broadcasting associations using the public airwaves to 15 by 2015.[9] He also warned of the threat of political parties which could influence programming in the public broadcasting system.

In September 2010 cuts to the public system took effect, with the existing eleven full-time broadcasting associations facing decisions about their futures. Part-time Islamic broadcasters NMO, NIO and the merged SMON were all withdrawn from the public system.

In March 2012, NPO announced the closure of two of its digital television channels, Geschiedenis 24 (History 24) and Consumenten 24 (Consumer 24) on 1 April. History programmes transferred to Holland Doc 24 and consumer programmes are looked after by VARA via an online portal[10]

Future plans (from 2016)

From 2015, Netherlands Public Broadcasting will face a budget shortfall of 200 million euro. To address this, the number of broadcasting associations within the public system is to be reduced. Mergers and/or cooperations have been confirmed between existing broadcasting associations:

Broadcaster Type Programming
1 KRO-NCRV[11] + RKK[12] & BOS[13] Member-based Catholic/Protestant-leaning
2 BNN-VARA[14] Member-based Youth and social awareness
3 AVROTROS[15] Member-based Popular and general entertainment
4 EO + IKON, ZvK & JO[12] Member-based Protestant
5 MAX + WNL[16] Member-based General
6 VPRO + HUMAN[17] Member-based Cultural, socially liberal
7 NOS + Omrop Fryslân,[18] PP & Socutera[19] Task-based News, sport, events, political broadcasts, regional
8 NTR + OHM & PowNed[20] Task-based Cultural, education, diversity
9 STER Other Advertising

List of broadcasters

Member based

There are currently eight member-based broadcasting associations:[5]

Task based

In addition, there are now two official "public service broadcasters" created under the Media Act of 1988:[5]

Special broadcasters

Apart from the member and task based broadcasters, a small amount of airtime is given to smaller organizations, which represent religious and philosophical groups. None of these organizations have members. In 2016 these broadcasters will be associated to a member based broadcaster.


Former broadcasters


The broadcasting organisations produce programmes for three main television channels and eight digital channels. Since 4 July 2009 the three main channels have been simulcast in 1080i high-definition. Most programming in the early stages is upscaled as in time more programmes will become available in native HD. In 2008 a temporary high-definition version of the Nederland 1 channel was created from 2 June to 24 August, to broadcast Euro 2008, the 2008 Tour de France, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in HD before the launch of the permanent HD service.



Available via digital cable, satellite, and internet.




Digital and web channels

The following digital and web channels are available via NPO Radioplayer. Channels are themed according to its parent network and/or the broadcasting association. Some of these channels appear on digital cable, on cable FM as well as the national DAB multiplex.[27]


Regional broadcasters

In addition to the national system, each Dutch province also has a broadcasting corporation supplying its own programming to its television and radio stations.


See also

Read more


  1. "Welke rol speelt de NPO als organisatie binnen het Nederlandse omroepbestel?" (in Dutch). NPO (PubliekeOmroep.nl). Retrieved 2014-11-23.
  2. Dutch Wikipedia article
  3. "Met een nettoresultaat van 190 miljoen euro in 2009 levert Ster een belangrijke bijdrage aan de mediabegroting van het ministerie van OC&W."
  4. Fusieperikelen in omroepland in de jaren '20, 8 July 2013
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Geschiedenis – NPO, 18 October 2015
  6. "NTR". nps.nl.
  7. "Hoe verhouden de NPO en de NOS zich tot elkaar?". npo.nl.
  8. "NTR". nps.nl.
  9. Article in English
  10. "Over NPO". publiekeomroep.nl.
  11. "KRO en NCRV overleggen over samenwerking". nos.nl.
  12. 1 2 "Joodse Omroep sluit zich aan bij EO". totaaltv.nl.
  13. "Boeddistische Omroep gaat op in KRO-NCRV". TotaalTV.nl.
  14. Van onze verslaggeefster Sara Berkeljon. "Patrick Lodiers: BNN en Vara willen één bedrijf worden". De Volkskrant.
  15. "TROS en AVRO willen fuseren". NU.
  16. "Advies Omroeperkenningen 2016-2020" (PDF). Raad voor Cultuur.
  17. "human is erkend als aspirant-omroep". vpro.nl. 14 January 2015.
  18. Zie Uitvoeringsconvenant Friese taal en cultuur 2009, Hoofdstuk 5.4
  19. de website van Socutera
  20. "Advies Omroeperkenningen 2016-2020" (PDF). Raad voor Cultuur.
  21. "Llink vraagt surseance aan". nrc.nl.
  22. "Geen nieuw onderdak voor Moslim Omroep". villamedia.nl.
  23. "Nederlandse Moslim Omroep failliet". nos.nl.
  24. History of Teleac (English)
  25. Dat was tevens de eerste uitzending van Veronica in het publieke bestel. English: This was the first broadcast from Veronica in the public system
  26. SRG interactive. "Sky Radio". Sky Radio.
  27. "DAB Ensembles Worldwide - Netherlands". wohnort.org.

External links

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