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The new and updated Media Landscapes have moved to a new location:

The article below is only available for archival purposes.

Media Landscapes

The Netherlands

Written by Piet Bakker, Peter Vasterman

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The Netherlands has a population of 16 million and is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. The national language is Dutch, which it shares with the northern part of Belgium. The kingdom of the Netherlands has a stable parliamentary democracy for more than a hundred years. Centre-left and centre-right governments have been ruling the country alternately since the World War II. Since the turn of the century two populist movements have gained substantial public support, first the movement under Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered in 2002; and since 2004 the right-wing anti-Islam movement of Geert Wilders.

The Netherlands is still a newspaper-reading country, although circulation and readership are declining like in almost every other western newspaper market. A paid newspaper is read in half of the Dutch households , in total this concerns 3.5millioncopies. Apart from that more than a million free dailies are distributed every day. Ten years ago paid circulation was still 4.2millionwhile there were 500,000 free copies distributed. Two thirds of the population reads a newspaper on an average day; 60 percent reads a paid newspaper. In 2002/2003, 76 percent of the Dutch read a newspaper, 71 percent read a paid newspaper.

More than half of the paid circulation in the Netherlands, 1.9 million copies, consists of national newspapers. National popular broadsheet De Telegraaf is market leader with around 600,000 copies, Algemeen Dagblad – the only national paper with special local editions, distributes 400,000 copies, quality paper de Volkskrant is third with 230,000 copies, while evening quality broadsheet NRC Handelsblad distributes 200,000 copies (all 2008 data). No other national daily distributes more than 100,000 paid copies.

Since 1999 the Netherlands is familiar with the concept of free dailies distributed to commuters. In June of that year both Metro International and incumbent publisher De Telegraaf launched a free daily on the same day: Metro and Spits. Both papers increased their circulation over the last decade from 250,000 to 400,000 copies. Readership is 1.9 million for Metro and 1.7 million for Spits. Most other attempts to launch a free daily ended without success. De Telegraaf operated a free afternoon daily in 2000 and 2001 while the other major national publisher PCM started the free daily DAG in 2007; it closed down after less than 18 months. The only competitor De Pers, launched in 2007 by independent publisher Mountain Media, cut circulation from almost 500,000 to 200,000 and is now only available in the major towns in the western part of the country.

Less than 15 independent regional newspapers are published in 2009, against more than two dozen ten years ago. The main reason for the decline is the consolidation of publishers of regional dailies and newspaper mergers. Paid national dailies are mainly distributed in the western part of the country (in the four major cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht and the areas around that), regional papers are stronger in the rest of the country. The largest regional dailies are De Gelderlander, Noordhollands Dagblad, Dagblad de Limburger, De Stentor and Brabants Dagblad; each with a circulation of more than 125,000.

Apart from daily newspapers, some paid non-dailies (mostly weeklies) exist, but this concerns only 50 titles with a joint circulation of less than 250,000. More common are free local weeklies, distributed in almost every part of the country, sometimes up to three or four different titles per household. Publishers of regional dailies own most of these papers.

There are no more Sunday papers in the Netherlands. Regional paper TC / Tubantia and De Telegraaf both introduced a Sunday edition in 2004; but these were terminated in 2008 and 2009. The Dutch media landscape lacks also sensational tabloids or ‘boulevard’ newspapers like Bild (Germany) or The Sun (UK), while there are also no specialized sports newspapers. The majority of the Dutch papers are now printed in tabloid format - although publishers rather talk about ‘compact’ newspapers.

Ownership is very concentrated in the Netherlands with three companies dominating more than 90 percent of the paid market. De Persgroep (formerly PCM) owns five national dailies: de Volkskrant, Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad,, Trouw and Amsterdam daily Het Parool; total market share is almost 40 percent. Telegraaf Media Groep (national daily De Telegraaf and four regional dailies in the western part of the country) and Mecom, with regional newspapers in the eastern and southern part of the country, are the other two main publishers.

The only publisher owning more than one newspaper is the Noordelijke Dagblad Combinatie, which owns Dagblad van het Noorden and Leeuwarder Courant in the northern provinces Friesland, Groningen and Drente. Free newspaper Spits is owned by De Telegraaf, while Metro (Metro International) and De Pers are independently owned. In total there are no more than a dozen newspaper publishers in the Netherlands. Mecom (UK), De Persgroep (Belguim) and Metro (Sweden) are foreign owned, which means that the majority of the Dutch newspapers are in foreign hands. Both De Persgroep and the newspapers owned by Mecom changed hands recently; although the PCM was owned for some years by UK investment firm Apax, while De Persgroep acquired Het Parool already in 2003. To meet the requirements of the NMa (Netherlands Competition Authority) the Persgroep has sold NRC Handelsblad and nrc next in December 2009 to the TV channel Het Gesprek in combination with the private equity fund Egeria.

With declining readership revenues from subscription - less than 10 percent of the Dutch circulation is distributed through single copy sales - total revenues for newspapers, however, were stable as newspapers increased their copy price over the years. Advertising income was less easy to influence, a declining market share of newspapers, increased competition from the internet and free dailies, and the recession of 2009, led almost every company to problems: there were massive job cuts and other measures to control costs. Hundreds of journalists and many other employees lost their jobs in the last years. Ten years ago Dutch newspapers received 60 percent of their income from advertising, now this is less than 45 percent.

Most Internet versions of newspapers are still losing money, mostly because competition on Internet advertising is high and rates are low. Therefore many newspapers are experimenting with other sources of income like web shops (books, CDs, DVDs, seminars, holiday, wines) and paid *.pdf versions. Also flexible subscription models (only weekends or short-term subscriptions) are possible; students can buy a subscription for a low price as well.

There are more than 9,000 different magazines titles distributed in the country, with TV-guides, women’s magazines, youth magazines and gossip magazines being the segments with the highest circulation. Also this market is very concentrated with Sanoma magazines (Finnish owned), publishing more than 70 titles, and dominating the market for weekly magazines. Leading national publishers Audax and Weekbladpers are both much smaller.

Dutch bookshops (including the ones on the Internet) sold in 2008 for 645 million euro worth of ‘general’ books, which was an increase of 2.3 percent compared to the previous year. In numbers, this meant 51 million books (more than 4 per ‘reading’ inhabitant), which was 4 percent more than in 2007.

Dutch media historians claim that the first radio program ever was broadcast from Scheveningen in the Netherlands in 1919. A government-controlled system whereby public organizations, organized along party and religious lines, replaced this private commercial operation in the 1920s. This system is still operating, although there are now many more organizations with a broadcasting license and also a strong joint national program by NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting).

The two public radio networks from the '20s expanded over the years to five channels, four with an FM frequency, one only on AM and a sixth online-only program. Radio 1 is for news and information, Radio 2 for family listening, 3 FM is the rock radio targeted at youth, Radio 4 broadcasts classical music and cultural programs, while Radio 5 is for spoken word, minorities and education. Internet channel Radio 6 focuses on non-mainstream music.

Commercial radio in the Netherlands means music radio in most cases, while the music is targeted at young people in general. Popular DJ’s are competing in the morning hours for audiences at some stations, while others (like Sky Radio) broadcast middle-of-the-road music without any spoken word except for the hourly news broadcasts. There is one news-only commercial radio channel in the Netherlands: BNR (Business News Radio), connected to financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad.

Every Dutch province (12 in total) has its own public regional radio and TV station; in particular the radio stations outside the western (Holland) part are among the most popular stations in those areas. Almost all local communities also have their own local station, subsidized by a levy on the community tax. Almost 300 local radio stations are operating, broadcasting in more than 400 communities. Some regional and local commercial stations exist, but these usually have a marginal existence because of heavy competition and low advertising rates. It is believed that only a few Dutch commercial stations make a profit, Radio538 (RTL Nederland), Sky Radio (De Telegraaf) and Qmusic (Belgian De Persgroep) are in this select group.

Radio listening in the Netherlands has been stable since 2000 around three hours on average daily. The most popular stations in 2008 were Radio538 (11 percent market share) Radio 2 (10.5 percent), Sky Radio (9 percent), 3FM (8 percent) and Radio 1 (7 percent). National commercial stations have a market share of 50 percent, public channels of more than 40 percent.

With an average viewing time of more than three hours a day, television is the most used medium in the Netherlands, even with Internet use increasing at a rapid speed. The time spend on the medium has been increasing until 2007. Twenty years ago, before the introduction of commercial TV, the Dutch spend just over two hours on television. In 2003 this was increased to three hours, and in 2007 to two hours and 27 minutes. In 2008 a small drop in viewing time showed, but it is too soon to say whether this is the beginning of a structural decline or just a temporal drop. Not everybody, however, has been watching more TV over the years; there is a clear trend that the younger generation watches less while the older generation watches more.

Watching TV in the Netherlands means having the choice between 30 channels at least as the country is almost totally cabled – already in 1999, 95 percent of the households had cable. Although the majority of the Dutch households have the opportunity for digital TV with extended possibilities, only 35 percent use that option, probably because the regular offering is already good enough for most people. Those 35 percent, plus the 5 percent that uses satellite TV can receive more than 30 channels, and also have interactive options.

As almost all Dutch viewers have at least 30 channels, the options are more or less the same for every viewer. Dutch national TV occupies the first three channels with Nederland 1, 2 and 3; the first is meant for ‘family programs’ (including sports), the second network focuses on news, information and culture, while Nederland 3 contains programs for the younger audience and is meant to be more innovative in its programming.

There are two competing commercial broadcasters, each with several channels. The German/Luxembourg RTL group operates RTL 4 (family), RTL 5 (youth), RTL 7 (business, men) and RTL 8 (mostly US-series and soaps); the USA-owned SBS group has three channels: SBS6 (family), Net 5 (women), and Veronica (youth). Apart from those ten channels, there is Het Gesprek (talk shows), MTV (youth), TMF (music), Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Eurosport, and at least one regional and in most cases one local station; all of these broadcast in Dutch or have Dutch subtitles.

With the two Belgian public broadcasters as well there are 20 Dutch language channels available for the TV audience – and BBC 1, BBC 2, one or two German channels, and often a French, Italian, Spanish or Arabic channel. With such a variety, switching to digital TV is not a real necessity for many viewers.

The market share of the public channels has dropped from almost 100 percent in 1989 ago to less than 40 in 2009; a share that has been quite stable over the last years, although having the rights for major sports events like the Olympics, the Football Championship or the major football league is still very important for attaining a substantial market share. Nederland 1 and 2, RTL 4 and SBS6 are the most popular channels, each with a market share of more than 10 percent - Nederland 1 even had more than 20 percent in 2008.

All Dutch public TV channels have advertising as an extra revenue source – apart from the regular tax-based public funding; the three national channels received around 200 million euro from advertising in 2008. This revenue stream is not only criticized by the commercial broadcasters but also by newspaper publishers who argue that this means unfair competition for commercial parties – the discussion has become more heated in 2009 as the recession has hurt the advertising revenues of commercial broadcasters and newspapers. There seems, however, not enough political support for a law change in this respect. The many websites of public broadcasters are often attacked by newspaper publishers because these threaten the already marginal operations (in terms of revenues) by the newspapers themselves. The website of the national public broadcaster NOS is one of the most visited websites in the country.

Dutch media law is meant to ‘keep the state at a distance’; the public broadcasters are not directly operated by the government who installed a Media Commission (Commissariaat voor de Media) to regulate broadcasting – including the regulation of commercial broadcasters with a Dutch license. This commission regulates frequencies for local, public and commercial broadcasters, checks the non-commercial character of programs and also keeps score of the maximum advertising time for broadcasters. There is a discussion, however, over the position of RTL, who claims it operates under Luxembourg law.

The programs on three national channels are not made by one national broadcaster but by private organizations, several of them already being founded in the 1920s. These organizations reflected the religious, social and political groups of the time: socialist, catholic, protestant and liberal. New groups, claiming to represent a part of society that was not yet provided for on TV, have been added to the roster over the years; and as also churches and other religious groups and some educative organizations received a license.

The Dutch radio and TV landscape is now inhabited by dozens of different broadcasters; some of them only airing a ten minute program every two weeks, others filling several hours a day. The largest broadcaster is NOS, a joint broadcasting entity, responsible for the daily news programs, main events, sports and culture. In 2010 two new (right wing) broadcasting organizations (WNL and PowNed) will receive a license for five years, while the green Link will have to leave, because it did not live up to the expectations of innovative television.

The Dutch visit a cinema 1.4 times per year on average, and do that very consistently since 2000; before that – during the 1980s and '90s, people watched less movies in cinemas, while going to the movies during the 1950s and '60s was even more popular than nowadays. The most popular movies are usually foreign-made, with Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, James Bond and the Pirates of the Caribbean topping the list since 2001. Dutch movies usually have a total market share of between 10 and 15 percent of the total visits in a given year.

There is a clear trend in the Netherlands to have fewer cinemas with more but smaller viewing rooms per cinema. In the beginning of the 1990s there were 175 cinemas with more than 400 screens and 226 seats per screen. In 2008 there were 130 cinemas left, with 560 screens and 180 seats per screen. The market is very concentrated; the four major companies (Pathé, Jogchem’s, Minerva and Wolff) have a joint market share of almost 80 percent.

Independent Dutch-funded movies in the Netherlands are an exception, without government support, European money or subsidies from broadcasters no Dutch movie could be made. In 2008 there were 30 movies made with Dutch money or co-produced with Dutch money.

The monopoly of the national telecom operator KPN ended in 1989. Since then other operators moved in, particularly in mobile telecommunication and in Internet access. Old-fashioned landline telephone is still dominated by KPN although only 60 percent of the population still uses this service to make phone calls, a percentage that is dropping since 2002. On a population of 16 million there are however, 20 million mobile phones. Also digital telephone services through cable or the Internet (VoIP) are gaining popularity fast.

With the monopoly position of KPN gone, the mobile market is now divided between the former monopolist (market share 47 percent in 2008), T-Mobile (25 percent) and Vodafone (21 percent). All operators are now expanding their mobile networks, with a focus on high-speed broadband connection in the expectation that mobile communication will be even more important than it is now.

The Dutch government founded a special telecom agency to oversee the new liberated market: the Onafhankelijk Post- en Telecommunicatie Autoriteit (OPTA) when the monopoly of KPN ended. OPTA regulates tariffs, controls competition on prices and services.

  • National newspapers
    • Agrarisch Dagblad
    • Algemeen Dagblad
    • De Telegraaf
    • de Volkskrant
    • Het Financieele Dagblad
    • Het Parool
    • Nederlands Dagblad
    • NRC Handelsblad
    • Reformatorisch Dagblad
    • Trouw
  • Free newspapers
    • De Pers
    • Metro
    • Sp!ts
  • Regional newspapers
    • Barneveldse Krant
    • BN De Stem
    • Brabants Dagblad
    • Dagblad de Limburger
    • Dagblad van het Noorden
    • De Gelderlander
    • De Gooi & Eemlander
    • De Stentor
    • Eindhovens Dagblad
    • Friesch Dagblad
    • Haarlems Dagblad
    • Het Parool
    • Leeuwarder Courant
    • Leidsch Dagblad
    • Limburgs Dagblad
    • Noordhollands Dagblad
    • PZC
    • Twentsche Courant Tubantia
  • Radio
    • OLON (local broadcasting)
    • ROOS (regional broadcasting)
  • TV
    • NOS
    • RTL
    • SBS
    • STER
  • Cinema
    • Pathé
    • Jogchem's
    • Minerva
    • Wolff Cinema Groep
    • Utopia/Utopolis
  • Telecommunications
    • KPN
    • OPTA
    • Orange
    • T-mobile
    • Telfort
    • Vodafone

In 2008 the Dutch had the highest percentage of Internet access in the European Union: 87.5 percent. More than 75 percent of these users have a broadband connection for high-speed Internet access, based on ADSL or cable. Mobile connections are used regularly by 25 percent; 98 percent of the people younger than 25 years old have Internet access.

More than 25 percent of the households have a so-called ‘triple play’ package offering telephone, digital TV and Internet in one subscription. Internet is used for all kinds of activities (web searches, email, gaming, downloading music, communities, banking, shopping, etc.). The Dutch version of Facebook, called Hyves, claims more than five million Dutch accounts. In 2008 more than 50 percent of the Internet users watches television and listens to radio via the Internet. Almost one in two users read or download news from newspaper websites.

All newspapers, magazines, TV-stations and broadcasting organizations offer a wide range of websites with news, backgrounds, interactive platforms, audio and video. The ‘program missed’ option, offered by public broadcasting to allow the viewing of an already broadcast program on the PC, is very popular. There are almost no news sites behind a pay wall (Financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad being the most notable exception), but newspapers offer the option to subscribe to the digital edition of the newspaper, including the newspapers archive. Every month more than 6.4 million people (13+) visit one or more newspaper sites.

The news site with the highest ranking in visitors is, a web-based site with headline news; second best is De Telegraaf. In the overall ranking of all sites in the Netherlands these sites score 8 and 12, with broadcasting companies RTL and NOS on place 27 and 28. The public broadcasting organization also offers several thematic digital channels like Holland doc (documentaries), History and Politics. Very popular (38 in the overall ranking) is the so-called shocklog, a critical and satirical right wing weblog.

  • Online media
    • - Shocklog
    • - Community
    • - Internet statistics
    • - Web based news
    • - Public broadcasting

Only few news agencies are active on the market in the Netherlands. Traditionally, the most important news agency is ANP (Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau), which was founded by the Association of the Dutch Daily Press (De Nederlandse Dagbladpers, NDP) in 1934. In 2000, ANP became an independent company, and in 2003 an investment company (NPM Capital NV) acquired the majority of the shares, leaving the rest in the hands of the newspapers publishers, who sold the remaining shares in 2007.

Almost all Dutch news media subscribe to the news feeds of ANP. The press agency also sells news to online news sites like ANP has offices in The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Brussels. ANP represents foreign news agencies like AFP, EFE, DPA, and Belga in the Netherlands.

The second press agency the GPD (Geassocieerde Pers Diensten), founded in 1936, delivers news for 17 regional newspapers. Novum (2001) is the smallest, Amsterdam-based press agency. All press agencies are struggling to survive the competition of all the free news on the Internet. In December 2009 ANP and GPD announced a close cooperation to reduce the costs of news coverage

The most important organisation in Dutch journalism is the Dutch Association of Journalists (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten, NVJ), which is a combination of a trade union and a professional organisation. The Amsterdam-based NVJ has about 9,000 members and deals with issues of press freedom as well as collective labour agreements and freelance fees.

Reporters covering parliament in The Hague can join the Parliamentary Press Association (Parlementaire Pers Vereniging, PVV). Foreign correspondents can become a member of the Foreign Press Association of the Netherlands (Buitenlandse Persvereniging in Nederland, BPV). The Dutch Society of Chief Editors (Nederlands Genootschap van Hoofdredacteuren plays an important role in Dutch journalism. This society issued a journalistic code in 1995, and functions as an important platform for debate.

The Dutch publishers are organised in the Dutch Publishers Association (Nederlands Uitgeversverbond), which organises publishers of daily newspapers, as well as magazines, professional and scientific journals, and books (general and educational). The Dutch Association of local newspapers (Nederlandse Nieuwsbladpers, NNP) organises publishers of weekly and bi-weekly newspapers and cable news.

Professionals working in the film and television industry are represented by the Professional Association of Film and Television Workers (Beroepsvereniging van Film- en Televisiemakers, NBF). The production companies in this area are organised in the Dutch Trade Association of Independent Television Producers (OTP, Onafhankelijke Televisie Producenten). Local and regional media are united in the Dutch Federation of Local Public Broadcasters (Organisatie van Lokale Omroepen in Nederland, Olon).

Apart from the professional organisations and unions, tehre are two other importan foundations who subsidize media projects. The Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund (Het Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties) provides grants to encourage the development and production of cultural radio and television programmes. The Foundation for Special Journalistic Projects (Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten) supports journalists who want to realize special research projects.

Advertisers are organised in the Association of Dutch Advertisers (BVA, Bond van Adverteerders), while advertising agencies are united in the Union of Communication Consultancy Agencies (VEA, Vereniging van Communicatie-adviesbureaus).

The development of commercial television since 1989 has stimulated the market for independent TV production companies. There are three big players, Endemol, Eyeworks and IDTV and more than 100 small companies working for commercial as well as public broadcasting. Endemol and Eyeworks also operate on the international market. Endemols greatest hit was the Big Brother format, sold to 58 different countries. 

  • News Agencies
    • Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANP)
    • Geassocieerde Pers Diensten (GPD)
    • Novum
  • Trade Unions
    • Association of Dutch Advertisers (BVA)
    • Federation of Local Public Broadcasters (OLON)
    • Foreign Press Association in the Netherlands
    • Netherlands Association of Journalists (NVJ)
    • Netherlands Association of Local Newspapers (NNP)
    • Netherlands Publishers Association (NUV)
    • Nieuwspoort - International Press Center/Parliamentary Press Association
    • Professional Association of Film and Television Workers (NBF)
    • Society of Chief Editors
    • Union of Communication Consultancy Agencies (VEA)
    • Trade Association of Independent Television Producers (OTP)
  • Other media outlets
    • Central Agency for Newspaper Publicity (Cebuco)
    • Eyeworks -Television production company
    • Endemol - Production company
    • IDTV - Television production company
    • Foundation for Special Journalistic Projects (Fonds BJP)
    • Institute for Media Auditing (HOI)
    • Cultural Broadcasting Fund (Mediafonds)
    • National Research Multimedia (NOM)
    • Dutch Audience Research Foundation (SKO)

The fundament for Dutch media policy is article 7 of the constitution: “Nobody needs permission in advance to make thoughts or feelings public use of the press, except everybody’s responsibility according to the law.” The latter phrase refers to slander, libel, insult and wrongful acts. Advertising is excluded from this freedom of speech: there are laws prohibiting or limiting advertising, for instance, of tobacco, alcohol and medicines.

The Media Law regulates radio and TV, but there is no advanced state supervision (censorship) regarding the content of broadcasted programs. Media policy in the Netherlands is mainly broadcasting policy, defining the organization of the public broadcasting system. Regarding print media, the government’s policy is focused on preventing disruptions of the free market due to vertical and horizontal media concentration.

Dutch media policy in regard to the EU has always been quite defensive, successive administrations tried to prevent commercial competitors to enter the TV market. But EU policy made it possible for Dutch-based commercial stations to broadcast from outside the country. The ‘Television Without Frontiers’ EU Directive is now fully implemented in Dutch legislation. The Netherlands also participates in the Media Plus (2001-2006) program, supporting the development of European audio-visual productions.

In 2009 the Dutch government decided to lay down in law the right of non-disclosure for journalists who want to protect their sources. But the protection of the source is not an absolute right. The right may be suspended if, for example, a more important interest such as national security or a very urgent investigation interest is at stake. The courts will ultimately decide whether the right to the protection of a source has been invoked correctly.

Two options – apart from complaining to the medium itself – are available for people with complaints about the press: the court or the Journalism Council (Raad voor de Journalistiek). Filing a suit is possible in the case of an unlawful act like slander, libel, insult, etc.; all other complaints can be brought before the independent Journalism Council, established in 1960 by the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ). In Dutch journalism several professional codes have been formulated over the years, which are used by the Council to evaluate complaints. The Councils’ verdicts and arguments in turn generate jurisprudence for the codes. Because of freedom of speech this Council is not able to force anyone to render account over their publications, or to impose any sanctions (like rectifications). Not all Dutch media support the Journalism Council, but the majority does, as well as the Dutch public broadcasting organisation NOS. Verdicts by the Council are published in the bi-weekly magazine of the Dutch Association of Journalists and on the website of the Council.

The Dutch press does not have a national press ombudsman like Sweden, but several national and regional newspapers employ their own ombudsman who investigates complaints of readers and who writes critically about the newspapers’ policy. The national TV news program NOS Journaal also has its own ombudsman.

Complaints regarding advertising can be filed at the Advertising Code Commission (Reclame Code Commissie). The Dutch Advertising Code states that advertising should not be deceptive, (unnecessarily) hurtful or in conflict with good taste and decency. The Advertising Code is based on self-regulation so only the supporting media organisations will accept the verdicts of the Commission. The Commission also monitors advertising messages on its own initiative.

Pressures for self-regulation within the audio-visual industry resulted in the Kijkwijzer (Watchguide), aimed at protecting young viewers against possible harmful effects. This Watch guide, established in 1997, classifies films, TV programmes, videos and games, to give advice to parents. By using pictograms the public is warned for content with violence, fear, sex, bad language, alcohol and drug abuse or discrimination.

The Commission for the Media supervises the implementation of the media law regarding public, as well as commercial television and cable operators. The Commission allocates broadcasting time to national, regional and local public media, and gives licences to commercial stations. Broadcasting organisations have to meet two criteria to get into the public broadcasting system: they need at least 300,000 supporters and they have to carry out the requirements of the media law to broadcast a prescribed amount of programmes in categories like information, culture and education. Public broadcasting organisations also have to produce a certain share of domestic programmes. The Commission also monitors the financial situation of public broadcasting and is authorized to fine the broadcasting organisations for clandestine advertising, illegal sponsoring, or commercial sidelines.

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa, established in 1998) investigates and sanctions cartels and misuse of economic power in all sectors, not only in the media, and assesses mergers and acquisitions. The NMa ended the tradition of price arrangements in the newspaper business. On several occasions the NMa took action against mergers of newspapers and ordered to maintain the independence of the newspaper that was taken over. The government has limited concentration in the newspaper market to a maximum share of 35 percent – part of the parliament wants that to expand to 50 percent. Also cross-ownership in newspaper and television is now less restricted than before.

Another important goal of the Dutch media policy is to stimulate media diversity. The Dutch Press Fund plays an important role in that respect: it is an independent authority that supports newspapers, magazines and websites with loans or subsidies. The Press Fund also supports research projects and joint efforts to improve minorities’ access to the media.

  • Laws, Regulations and Institutions
    • Advertising Code Commission (Reclame Code)
    • Commission for the Media (CVDM)
    • Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media (NICAM)
    • Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa)
    • Press Council (RVDJ)
    • Press Fund (Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers)

The Dutch higher education system knows two types of institutions: the Universities (with bachelor and master levels) and on the other the polytechnics for professional training (de hogescholen). There are four-year full-time bachelor journalism programs at the Hogescholen in Utrecht (founded in 1966), Tilburg (1980), Zwolle (1986) and Ede (1995). The universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden and Nijmegen offer Master programs in journalism for bachelor students (varying from 12 to 18 months), while Rotterdam (8 months) has a postdoctoral program. All programs offer internships of three or six months with newspapers, magazines or radio and TV-programs.

Apart from that, there are several programs with individual courses and mid-career training, offered by the Expertise Centre for journalism at the University of Amsterdam and at the Center for Communication and Journalism at the Hogeschool Utrecht.

Journalism Studies research centres can be found at the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and at the Hogescholen in Utrecht, Zwolle and Tilburg. The Newsmonitor (Nieuwsmonitor) in Amsterdam, founded by the publishers in combination with the NVJ and the government, monitors the content of the news in Dutch media.

The main source for statistics in the Netherlands is the Bureau of Social Statistics (Sociaal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS), while the Social Cultural Planning Bureau (Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) gathers information on media and cultural activities.

The JIC (Joint Industry Committee) in which advertisers, advertising agencies as well as the media work together supervises media research like the National Research Multimedia (NOM), the Foundation for Viewer Research (SKO, Stichting Kijkonderzoek), or the Circulation Figures Institute (Het Oplage Instituut, HOI).

Nielsen Media Research is the leading company in the area of advertising spending. The Central Agency for Newspaper Publicity (Centraal Bureau voor Courantenpubliciteit, Cebuco) supports the marketing of the Dutch newspapers. 

  • Media and Journalism studies
    • Amsterdam: Expertisecentrum Journalistiek
    • Amsterdam: Journalistiek en media UVA (master)
    • Ede: Christelijke Hogeschool Ede (CHE)
    • Groningen: Afdeling Journalistiek Rijksuniversiteit
    • Groningen: Journalism Studies and Media
    • Rotterdam: Erasmus University
    • Tilburg: Fontys Hogeschool Journalistiek
    • Utrecht: HU Centre for Communication and Journalism
    • Utrecht: HU University of Applied Sciences
    • Zwolle: Christelijke Hogeschool Windesheim

Since the beginning of the 1990s newspapers have been losing ground, first to TV and later to the Internet. Although there seems to be some substitution, the main reason seems to be that coming generations use the media that they grew up with as their media of preference. This was TV in the 1980s and '90s, the Internet in the 1990s and in the 21st century, and the mobile phone in the last decade. Generations that grew up with newspapers still treat this medium as their medium of preference. This explains not only why newspapers have problems reaching the younger generation but also why they still have a firm foothold in the Dutch society.

News, not only in newspapers, but also on TV, are still very popular. The national daily 20:00 o’clock newscast NOS Journaal often has two million viewers or more, and is usually in the top 10 of every day’s best-viewed programs. Also the other newscasts of the public broadcaster, daily talk shows and the daily newscast of commercial broadcaster RTL, the ‘light news’ program of SBS and ‘entertainment news’ programs occupy places in the top 20 every day. There is no shortage of people wanting to read, watch or listen to news.

Internet penetration – or to be more precise broadband Internet penetration – is very high but has not yet resulted in a total shift in media use. This could happen, however, when new generations grow up and take over in numbers from the older ones.

  • Bakker, P. & Scholten, O. (2009). Communicatiekaart van Nederland. Overzicht van media en communicatie (7th edition). Amsterdam: Kluwer.  A reference book on the Dutch media with many tables and other data that is updated every two years.
  • Annual reports by the Commissariaat voor de Media (2005-2008). Gives a yearly update on media use, ownership and regulation in the Netherlands. Can be downloaded from

Peter L. M. Vasterman
Assistant Professor
Department of Media Studies
University of Amsterdam
Turfdraagsterpad 9,
1012 XT Amsterdam,
Tel: + 31 20 5253647

Piet Bakker
Professor Cross Media Content
School of Journalism and Communication at the Hogeschool Utrecht
Padualaan 99 / Postbus 8611
3503 RP Utrecht
Tel: +31 30 219 32 25



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