DUTCH TV BILL DEBATED

Gov't mulls revamp of pubcasting system

AMSTERDAM — Dutch public broadcasters are nervously awaiting the outcome of a parliamentary debate on a new TV bill, which begins Monday, that could kill off the archaic state system that has existed for more than half a century.

The bill calls for issuing one single broadcast license under which seven state broadcasters would operate after the year 2000. The license would be tightly controlled at the top by a tripartite committee appointed by the government.

Currently nine public broadcasters operate on three channels, each with their own license, and share time with another two dozen other state broadcasters. All broadcasters are legally independent of each other and the government, and most have their origins in political, religious or special-interest groups. Under the new proposed regime, the NOS executive board, on which reps of all of the major broadcasters sit, would disappear.

The Dutch situation is being watched very closely by other pubcasters around Europe, particularly in Belgium, where outmoded state systems are struggling for audience share against an increasingly aggressive commercial sector.

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