Pubcasters Seize Last-Ditch Effort

Some 33 public broadcasters in Holland submitted applications to the Dutch government last week for licenses which many media analysts say will prop up the crumbling public broadcasting system for the last time.

The licences allow the pubcasters to broadcast for another five years. Missing was an application by Veronica, the largest and wealthiest of the state broadcasters. It has chosen to leave the public system this year to relaunch as a commercial channel in a joint venture with top Euro indie prod Endemol Entertainment.

Media analysts see the desertion of Veronica and increasing calls by Dutch legislators for a more level playing field between commercial and public broadcasters as a sign of the disintegration of the public system. That system has dominated the Dutch landscape for 70 years.

Parliament has scheduled hearings later this year on whether to create one public broadcaster, such as the BBC, to replace the nine main pubcasters and a pack of political, religious and special-interest broadcasters which now share time across three terrestrial channels. One question, however, is expected to be whether the pubcasters should give up one, if not two, of webs to the commercial sector.

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