AMSTERDAM – Holland’s usually tolerant attitude toward sex will be put to the test by a new moral shock brigade being asked to look into whether latenight erotic programming may be too hot even for the Dutch to watch.
Dutch Minister of Justice Winnie Sorgdrager plans a probe by an independent committee into whether commercial Dutch channels SBS6 and Veronica, the latter a part of the Hol-land Media Group, may be playing fast and loose with the Dutch law against pornography in its latenight timeslots.
SBS6 and Veronica regularly schedule erotic programming, mainly on Friday evening after 11, and aud shares show more than a few viewers are taking a peep. SBS6 viewer share rises from a lukewarm 7% at the 8 p.m. primetime hour to a cheeky 26% after midnight, when an erotic film that starts at 11:30 gets into full swing. SBS6 also skeds a few racy talkshows, documentaries and series, including “The Red Zone,” a talkshow that features many guests from the sex industry in Holland.
Veronica also programs Friday night erotica beginning at 11 p.m., and next month plans to launch a new Monday evening softcore interactive variety show featuring live perform-ances of erotica. Viewers will be able to phone in and make comments on the performances.
The Dutch investigation comes on the heels of a request by Dutch center-right Christian Democrat Party (CDA) legislator Alis Koekoek, who watched quite a bit of the stuff himself and decided it wasn’t fit for on-air viewing.
Both Veronica and SBS6 claim to be programming pure erotica, not hardcore. Said SBS6 program director Bart Soepnel, “Our programming is sexy and exciting but we do not program anything that is explicit, kinky, socially unacceptable or illegal. SBS6 draws more than 250,000 viewers on Friday nights after 11. That makes us the market leaders, so a lot of people think we are doing it right.”
Nevertheless, said a spokesperson for Koekoek, “Despite the hour, some children who are up late zapping could end up watching it. It’s also not nice for adults who don’t want to see sex when they are zapping.”
Koekoek may have a tough time getting any legislation to tone down the airwaves. Dutch parliamentarians are traditionally timid about legislating morality and Sorgdrager herself was said to have been pressured into the probe by the CDA.
Dutch law would require proof that the programming is offensive to most people, something that mere nudity cannot pull off — Dutch commercials are sprinkled with nudity that no one seems to mind. More than a few industry insiders have put the sudden interest in salacious programming on the part of the CDA down to the upcoming elections in Holland more than any real worry about sex on TV.
SBS6 parent company Scandinavian Broadcasting System is, inciden-tally, 23% owned by the Walt Disney Co. Soepnel said the Friday night feature film would be scrapped at year end but not because of any investiga-tion. “These plans were already in the works. We have reviewed the quality of these films and decided we’re not happy with them, but if I found erotic programming I was happy with, I’d put it on.”