Holland Media Group under fire

Dutch watchdog fights to bring channels under local regs

AMSTERDAM — Holland’s media watchdog the Dutch Media Authority says it will continue a long-standing fight to bring RTL 4 and RTL 5, two of the Holland Media Group’s (HMG) channels, under Dutch regulation despite a high court decision ruling that they will remain under Luxembourg law.

The Dutch Supreme Court ruled Aug. 6 that Dutch channels RTL4 and RTL5 will remain under Luxembourg law in the latest round of a dispute that began in 1997 between the Media Authority and HMG. RTL 4 was launched in 1989 from Luxembourg at a time when Dutch law forbade commercial channels, with RTL 5 following four years later. A third HMG channel Yorin is governed by Dutch law.

If RTL 4 and RTL 5 were brought under Dutch law, “it would cost HMG millions,” says Media Authority spokesman Bart Bijvank, but it would also level the playing field, he adds. Other broadcasters are subject to much stricter regs regarding product placement and the length of commercial time blocks, and that includes pubcasters, which also carry commercials.

The high court said it agreed with the Media Authority but ruled the two channels would remain under Luxembourg supervision since European law allows channels to be subject to only one territory, not two. It said that the Media Authority could appeal to the government of Luxembourg to hand over regulatory authority to Holland for the two channels or start legal proceedings in the European Court of Justice.

Bijvank said the Media Authority would be making a decision shortly on how to proceed, but added, “There is no way that this matter is going to be dropped.”

With the RTL Group, the parent group of HMG, headquartered in Luxembourg, it is highly unlikely a Luxembourg court would yield regulatory authority to Holland, and much more likely this seven-year-old case will end up in the European Court of Justice.