World of television

The broadcasting system in the Netherlands is in one respect unique in the world: different broadcasting networks and foundations broadcast programmes via the national public broadcasting company. In England there is only one broadcasting company, the BBC, for six national public channels. As a result, the Dutch media market is regarded as the most competitive in Europe. Besides the national channels there are many commercial, regional and local broadcasters.

Dutch public broadcasting network

The Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting (NPO) is the administrative organisation of the entire public broadcasting services in the Netherlands. The NPO has the important task of distributing the budgets among the various broadcasters. In addition, the NPO is responsible for the programming of the three public networks, each with a profile of its own that is safeguarded by the network manager.

  • NPO 1 has a broad-ranging programme aimed at a large public, ranging from news and current affairs to consumer programmes and quality drama.
  • NPO 2 has the profile of a more in-depth network for interested viewers. Regular features are international art and culture, documentaries and art-house films, literature, politics, society and religion.
  • NPO 3 targets young people in the Netherlands. The programme for children is broadcast between 6:30 and 19:30 hours under the names Zeppelin and Zapp.
  • NPO Zeppelin is the public broadcasting channel for the youngest viewers. Children to the age of 6 years can be introduced to TV and the internet in a secure and familiar manner.
  • NPO Zapp is intended for children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. Besides amusement, it also broadcasts news and current affairs programmes.

From 19:30 hours on NPO presents teenagers and young adults with innovative and challenging programmes that help young people to form their own opinion. The range is wide and varied, from everyday news to music, travel, human interest, talk shows and documentaries.

Besides the five broadcasters, NPO also has five thematic channels:

  • NPO News: the latest news around the clock.
  • NPO Politics: current affairs and background programmes, parliamentary debates and programmes that offer insight into how democracy works.
  • NPO Culture: many documentaries, art, culture and science.
  • NPO 101: innovative and experimental channel with programmes for and by young people.
  • NPO Zapp Xtra (until 20:00 hours) and NPO Best (from 20:00 hours) share a channel. In the daytime there are programmes for children, and in the evening a feel-good channel with Dutch drama, humour and highlights from the rich archive of the public broadcasting network.

National public broadcasters

Through the NPO the state distributes air time to independent broadcasting networks and other broadcasters. The Concession Act provides that, after visitation, broadcasters can receive a license to broadcast every five years.

Anyone in the Netherlands can start a broadcasting service and obtain air time as long as they (1) have enough members, (2) represent a social, cultural, religious or spiritual movement, and (3) add something to the Dutch Public Broadcasting Company (NPO).

At the moment there are six recognised broadcasters: AVROTROS, BNN-VARA, KRO-NCRV, MAX, EO and VPRO. There are also two broadcasters with a specific task as laid down in the Media Act. The NOS provides a broad, independent news service, while the NTR makes programmes about art and culture, minorities, young people, education and background journalism. In addition there are three broadcasters with provisional recognition: WNL, PowNed and Human. They are affiliated to one of the six recognised broadcasters. This is because the broadcasting system is not allowed to consist of more than eight organisations at any one time.

Regional and local public broadcasters

Besides the national public broadcasters there are also thirteen regional public broadcasters. Each province has its own broadcaster, except for South Holland, which has two (RTV Rijnmond for South Holland South and Omroep West for South Holland North). The thirteen broadcasters are united in the Regional Broadcasting Consultation and Cooperation Foundation (ROOS). ROOS represents the interests of the broadcasters and elaborates policy, represents the branch to politicians, government bodies and others, concludes collective contracts and provides outreach. These thirteen regional broadcasters are also public broadcasters and are thus bound by the programme regulations and other provisions of the Media Act. Regional broadcasters are active on radio, TV and internet.

Besides the large regional broadcasters there are also many local public broadcasters. These broadcast for one or more local authorities in the Netherlands and make programmes at local level to provide information or amusement. The interests of many local broadcasters are represented by the Organisation of Local Broadcasters in the Netherlands (OLON).

National commercial broadcasters

SBS Broadcasting (Scandinavian Broadcasting System) broadcasts in a large number of countries. It has been active in the Netherlands since 1995. Four commercial TV broadcasters (SBS6, Net5, SBS9 and Veronica) and one video on demand platform (KIJK) fall under this organisation.

RTL belongs to the international RTL group, which is 75.1% owned by the German international media giant Bertelsmann. Because the legal status of RTL is that of a commercial broadcasting company based in Luxembourg that targets the Dutch market, the channels RTL 4, RTL 5, RTL 7 and RTL 8 do not fall under the Dutch Media Act, giving RTL an exceptional position within the Dutch broadcasting system.

Viacom International Media Network was previously known as MTV Networks. With MTV, Comedy Central, VIVA, Nickelodeon, Spike and other entertainment brands, Viacom has a total of 25 channels for the target groups children, families, teenagers and adults.

Difference between public and commercial broadcasters

The NPO is a state organisation with as its main task the providing of objective and independent programmes for all target groups. It also has the task of providing a large range of informative programmes with an emphasis on art and culture. 80% of NPO programmes are made in the Netherlands. STER organises advertising, which is not allowed to take up more than 10% of the air time. As a result, no programmes are interrupted for commercials.

The main objective of the commercial broadcasters is to make a profit. Because they do not receive state funding, their revenue comes from advertising and membership fees. The commercial broadcasters do not have fixed tasks and mainly broadcast programmes to entertain (large) target groups. 15% of the air time per hour can be devoted to commercials. The broadcasters are thus able to interrupt programmes for commercials.