Holland is about to pass a law which permits sponsorship on the Dutch public broadcasting system for the first time in its history.

The bill brings Holland into compliance with EC regulations on sponsorship and is a 180° turnaround from a severely restrictive measure proposed by the former government that was swept out of office last spring.

The bill already has passed Holland’s Second Chamber, considered the nation’s decisive legislative body. It is expected to be rubber-stamped within weeks by the First Chamber and the State Council, in most cases a formality in Holland.

The measure allows sponsorship for all programs except news, consumer shows and children’s shows, and also permits billboarding up to five seconds long. In heated debates in Parliament last week, the new coalition government threw out a severely restrictive measure that had been drawn up by the former government. The earlier bill allowed sponsorship for sports and cultural shows only and outlawed billboarding and product placement. Under the new measure, product placement is still against the law.

The new government’s abrupt turnaround on the sponsorship issue was linked to fears of massive revenue losses from the start-up of what is expected to be as many as half a dozen new commercial channels in Holland this year, according to a spokesperson for the Dutch pubcasters.

The pubcasters have traditionally had commercial windows, but have been losing advertising share to commercial broadcasters for years. Sponsorship has never been allowed by Dutch law, but state channels have been informally permitted to co-finance with private companies since 1989.