Netherlands invests €30m in world's biggest radio telescope

The Netherlands is investing €30m in the world’s biggest radio telescope, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven announced in a letter to parliament on Monday. The project is part of a number of scientific innovations worth a total of €108m to be realised in the next four years. The telescope, or Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be financed by 11 countries and built in South Africa and Western Australia beginning in 2021. It is made up of of hundreds of satellite dishes and thousands of antennas which will produce images of the early formation of stars. ‘This could potentially lead to breakthrough scientific discoveries,’ the minster said. The prestigious Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in Drenthe ASTRON will lead the consortium that will develop SKA's antenna stations in Western Australia and also play a major role in two other consortia that will process the data, the institute says on its website. Van Engelshoven said Dutch participation in the project will not only lead to a ‘strengthening of the Netherlands’ leading position in radio astronomy’ but will also boost the economy. ‘The Netherlands has a good chance of hosting the European data processing centre for SKA,’ she said. Michiel van Haarlem, head of the SKA Office Netherlands at ASTRON, said the Netherlands will have a proportional share in contracts for the construction of the SKA and that Dutch companies and institutions are well positioned to win contracts in many areas, for example for the delivery of elements of the telescope and smart software. The project agreement will be signed on March 12 in Rome.  More >

Some BBC jobs may head for Amsterdam

The BBC is opening an office in the Netherlands so it can keep transmitting across the EU if there is a no-deal Brexit, news agency Bloomberg said on Thursday. The broadcast licences which will be moved cover shows which the BBC beams to other EU countries, such as Doctor Who and Eastenders, sources close to the discussions told Bloomberg. Under EU rules, broadcasters have to have considerable operations or a satellite uplink to qualify for a licence. Bloomberg said last year that the BBC was in talks with Dutch and Irish broadcast authorities to obtain licences. The BBC has not officially confirmed the decision. 'As an international broadcaster operating a number of commercial channels in the EU we are ensuring the necessary arrangements are in place to continue operating those channels in any changed regulatory environment,' a BBC Studios spokesperson told Broadband TV News. 'If any of BBC Studios’ commercial channels are required to be licensed in the EU it would involve a limited number of staff responsible for editorial decisions relating to those channels.' In September, British online sports channel DAZN said it is opening a new development centre in Amsterdam as part of its plan to become the ‘Netflix of sports’ and protect its operations from the impact of Brexit.  More >

The Correspondent won't have a US office

Dutch online journalism website De Correspondent, which raised over $2.5m via crowdfunding to launch an international version of their platform, now says that it has closed its New York office and will base its English language operations in Amsterdam. In an update on Medium, co-founder Ernst-Jan Pfauth says the company has decided to stay in Amsterdam because it is a great place to work and to foster a single-company culture. But the news has annoyed some of the site's American backers, who accounted for 40% of people who put money into the new project last year. They argue the funding campaign gave the impression that the company would open up stateside. I think the strong implication, if not the intention, from @The_Corres was a U.S. expansion, meaning a U.S.-based news organization. Maybe I and others were making assumptions, but at least some of the language here makes it seem like what was promised is not being delivered. — Scott Nover (@ScottNover) March 26, 2019 !!!!! restoring trust in news 🤔- way to go — emily bell (@emilybell) March 26, 2019 Rob Wijnberg, the company's other co-founder, told Niemanlab that the US focus had been misinterpreted. 'A lot of media who wrote about us as, “They’re launching in the U.S.” Which is pretty much 80% true, in the sense that we are going to have English-language correspondents in the US — just not only in the US,' he said. He did not say if disappointed supporters could get their money back. De Correspondent was launched in September 2013 after raising more than €1m in a Dutch crowd-funding campaign. The Dutch website has some 60,000 paying members but also attracts considerable sponsorship from Dutch media funds.  More >

Low-cost app can help beat fear of heights

Researchers in Amsterdam have developed an app to beat vertigo that they say is just as effective as a course of therapy. The app, known as ZeroPhobia, is based on the techniques of exposure therapy, a form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) that gradually allows people to confront their fear of heights. Users create a VR headset by putting a smartphone in a cardboard holder and strapping it over their eyes. They then view a series of images that simulate the effect of looking down from heights. Researcher Tara Donker said the results were comparable to conventional therapy, but at a fraction of the cost. 'We can offer CBT for phobias without the intervention of a therapist, just with the patient's smartphone and a VR set that costs less than €10. 'Patients are gradually exposed in a VR environment to situations that they find frightening. In the case of vertigo, for example, they might stand on top of a tall building or on a balcony. In this way they learn step by step to cope with their fear.' She added: 'I think ZeroPhobia shows that stand-alone adaptations can help keep our health system affordable and make an important contribution to the quality of our care.' Details of the study have been published in the scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry.   More >

WNL scraps Kuzu's guest editor invite

Populist public broadcaster WNL has withdrawn an invitation to Tunahan Kuzu, leader of political party Denk, to guest present breakfast show Goedemorgen Nederland. WNL has invited a different party leader to present and edit the show every day in the run up to the provincial elections on March 20. Kuzu was invited to join the line up a couple of weeks ago but WNL has now cancelled the invite, saying it fears he would 'negatively influence the contents' of the show. 'Our editor in chief does not think it appropriate to have you as guest editor after all the attacks you have made on the freedom of the press,' presenter Maaike Timmerman told Kuzu, who was instead a guest on Wednesday morning's programme. Kuzu accused the show of gutter journalism and said it is discriminating on both political and ethnic grounds. WNL editor in chief Bert Huisjes said later on Radio 1 Denk, which has three seats in parliament, is the only political party in the Netherlands 'which would not appear to understand how the freedom of the press operates in the Netherlands.' Political scientist Tom Louwerse said in a reaction on Twitter: 'Perhaps the concept of having politicians as guest editor is a very bad idea anyway from the point of view of an independent press.'  More >

FT buys controlling stake in The Next Web

The Financial Times media group has acquired a controlling stake in The Next Web, the Amsterdam-based media and digital company focused on the tech community. ‘TNW continues to operate independently and its management and the founders  continue to execute the vision that the company has set out,’ the Amsterdam company said in a statement. TNW started in 2006 as a small tech conference in Amsterdam which has since grown into a major European event. It also operates a co-working brand, a start-up data base and provides innovation services to third parties. The deal marks the FT group’s first strategic investment in mainland Europe. Financial details were not disclosed.   More >