Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dutch newspapers allowed passage to RTV

There was great news for the Dutch newspaper companies this week. At last, after a change in the laws, they will be allowed to start broadcasting activities. This is great, certainly for a country where a government fell once on a broadcast matter. Now the government will approve the law next Friday to go to the Chambers. This is going to a new area for the newspaper companies; it will be a blow and more competition for the public broadcast companies.

It was already in the air for some time and the newspaper companies had anticipated on it by buying minority shares in radio companies. De Telegraaf bought Sky Radio, while PCM bought Arrow. And on the television front, activities have been started. De Telegraaf bought a minority share in SBS NL to be converted in share for SBS International. PCM had been experimenting with De Volkskrant producing video on internet and NRC having editors in TV programs. The holding has asked Mr de Winter, the IDTV television production company, to write a plan to start a new station, code name Oase TV. Het Parool, the local Amsterdam paper, started to broadcast in cooperation with AT5, the Amsterdam television station. Wegener has no radio and television activities; it used to have radio and television stations, but in 2001 TFM was sold to MTV and the radio stations were also sold off. Wegener was too early in and too early out of the cycle.

Giving the newspaper companies a new part of the media playing field is bad news for the public broadcasting system. Their territory has been decreasing since 1989, when the commercial broadcast companies were allowed to start broadcasting for the first time. Last year Talpa the commercial company of John de Mol, stepped into the arena, got the football broadcast rights and dealt a blow to the public broadcast companies as far as their audiences. Now the newspaper companies are going to be part of the competition. They will start their own companies or perhaps co-operate with existing commercial or public broadcast stations. One thing is for sure, the public broadcast system will loose advertisement revenues.

The Dutch public broadcast system has been a very incestuous collection of churches and religions, ranging from Roman Catholics to Protestants, from socialists to humanists, from Jews to Moslems. They all were subsidised by the government. And the companies that were great had their idealistic programs and a lot of entertainment, while the small stations did not get further than a one or two hours a week of idealistic broadcasts. The public broadcast system did have a chance to change in the eighties, but it missed. Now the public broadcast system will loose influence rapidly as the large public broadcast companies will seek co-operation with commercial companies.

A broadcast company will have to fight for its radio frequencies, but television is dependent on the cable companies and the triple play companies. They will have to decide now whether they want to offer free programs interspersed with advertisement or paid programs (programs behind the decoder).

This new broadcasting laws will shake up broadcasting country, it will diminish the role of the public broadcasting companies dramatically (at last) and will give room to commercial companies and finally also to newspapers.

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Blog Posting Number: 390

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