Public broadcasters are failing staff who have fallen victim to a widespread culture of “ongoing sabotage, physical or verbal violence and sexual intimidation” a committee investigating workplace behaviour has said.
In its report, titled “Haven’t seen anything”, “Haven’t heard anything”, “Haven’t done anything”, the committee slated the attitude of the broadcasters’ management, which it said “looked the other way” rather than taking staff complaints seriously.
The committee, under the leadership of former minister Martin van Rijn, was briefed to investigate work culture at the public broadcasters following revelations about a culture of fear at popular television chat show De Wereld Draait Door.
In 2022, presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk was accused of bullying staff and creating “a climate of fear” but senior management at broadcaster BNNVARA failed to take any action, the Volkskrant, which broke the story said at the time.
More recently, NOS Sport came under scrutiny for fostering an unsafe working environment by not tackling reports from former and current staff about the harassment of female staff by presenters.
Some 1,484 members of staff, or three in four of those participating in a survey said they had either witnessed or been the object of harassment which is a “shocking number”, the committee said.
Among staff at the talkshow itself, it was considered “normal” that men in senior positions slept with junior female colleagues and one person told the committee that “sexual availability” had a role in determining if contracts were renewed.
The effects of this behaviour resulted in “physical, mental and social damage”, the committee said. It also undermined creativity, innovation and team work.
The report concluded that Dutch public broadcasting organisation NPO and the individual broadcasters have done far too little in tackling the problem. Recommendations include a recognition of all forms of harassment and after care for victims.
The quality of leadership at the broadcasters also needs to improve, with managers and others in senior positions leading by example, the committee said. Presenters also need more “coaching”, as much for themselves as for the protection of others.
Commercial broadcasters did not fall within the scope of the committee.
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