The broadcaster said the new look reflected changing times while remaining ‘very faithful to the story’. ‘It’s a Piet who is faithful to Dutch tradition without being offensive,’ a spokesman told NPO Radio 1.
RTL insisted in a statement that it was not taking sides in the polarised ‘Zwarte Piet debate’: ‘It shouldn’t be about who’s right, but about understanding each other’s point of view.’ However, within hours the hashtag #boycotRTL was trending on Twitter as furious traditionalists made their feelings known.
Deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher, who has chaired a series of discussions on the issue between supporters and opponents of Zwarte Piet, praised RTL’s decision on his own Twitter account, adding the comment: ‘Time for change’.
Complimenten voor RTL. Tijd voor verandering https://t.co/P3YEmI3XQK
— Lodewijk Asscher (@LodewijkA) October 24, 2016
The public service broadcaster NTR, which produces the annual Sinterklaasjournaal for NOS, refused to reveal if it has made similar changes in its pre-recorded episodes. ‘Wait for the first episode on November 9,’ said a spokeswoman.
Several leading actors, including ‘head Piet’ Eric van Muiswinkel and Dolores Leeuwin, have quit the NTR version of the show this year citing artistic differences.