Dutch back media law

Legislation OKs channel-profiling scheme

AMSTERDAM — After several years of controversy, the Dutch Parliament has given a greenlight to new media legislation under which one license will be issued to each of the several dozen broadcasters in the public broadcasting system. The law also gives a thumbs up to a bitterly disputed channel-profiling scheme.

Dutch pubcasters, most of whom represent political, social or special interest groups, have each held a license throughout the history of the state system. Under the new law, passed by the Dutch Second Chamber on Tuesday, one 10-year concession will be handed out to the NOS, the pubcaster umbrella group, and each broadcaster will be issued a five-year sublicense under that concession. After five years, each will be re-evaluated to see if it should be issued another sublicense.

Centralization

The new law puts into place a centralized and vertically integrated management system, doing away by September with the old approach, in which decisions were made by consensus of several dozen broadcasters. It also institutes a new channel-profiling scheme about which many pubcasters have been harshly critical.

Vara, one of the most influential of the pubcasters, which is closely tied to the powerful Dutch labor party PvdA, has been so upset by the new law’s centralization of management that it is threatening to leave the public broadcasting system.

Managers empowered

Under the new scheme, channel managers’ control over the programming of the individual webs will grow increasingly powerful, while the influence of the individual state broadcasters whose programs appear on the channels will continue to wane.

“Under the new management, the Vara will become nothing more than a production house supplying programs to the NOS,” said Hans Elsendoorn, a spokesman for the broadcaster.

Vara is expected to make a decision within the next two weeks on whether it will leave the state system to launch as a commercial channel.

While the new media legislation must still be passed by the First Chamber, it is invariably a rubber-stamp process, and laws passed by the Second Chamber in Holland are considered to be a fait accompli.

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