Public tv needs an overhaul

If ever there was an argument for reforming the public tv sector, it is the thought that the Telegraaf might end up with two state-funded tv stations, writes Robin Pascoe.

Campaigning for the right to set up new public broadcast companies has just ended.
The pro-animal broadcasting company Piep did not make the grade, despite the backing of top vegetarian actress Georgina Verbaan. Nor did the culture-based channel C – despite its heavyweight roster of support. Nor did a variety of initiatives based on religion and race.
In fact, the only two new public tv initiatives to surpass the 50,000 member requirement both come from the Telegraaf stable.
The Dutch public broadcasting system is open to new companies, if they have enough members and if they meet a need currently being ignored in Hilversum.
Both Wakker Nederland (wide-awake Netherlands – somewhat reminiscent of the tv company the hapless Bridget Jones worked for) and PowNed say they want to address the left-wing bias in the current public broadcasting output.
Wakker Nederland aims to provide current affairs for all those under-represented people who form the ‘backbone of the Netherlands’. PowNed says it will ‘bring life to the blubber of politically-correct programming’ – in other words, foreigner-bashing and wet t-shirts.
It is now up to culture minister Ronald Plasterk to decide if Wakker Nederland and PowNed should get taxpayers cash for their tv and radio initiatives.
Alongside the dozen or so public broadcasters, the Netherlands has a plethora of commercial tv companies. They offer everything from high-brow BBC drama series to cheap American reality tv – as well as a complete spectrum of home-grown programming.
The fact that the Telegraaf managed to get enough support for its public tv initiatives is hardly surprising when you consider the massive free publicity, the t-shirts and the stars dragged out to back them. Even minister Plasterk let himself be used for a publicity photograph.
Both would-be broadcasters are owned by the Telegraaf Media Group, a bourse-listed company which owns the country’s biggest newspaper. If the Telegraaf is so keen to become a force in broadcasting, it can just set up a commercial tv station like anyone else.

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