The Dutch news market is characterised by a strong public service broadcaster (PSB) and highly concentrated newspaper ownership, with two Belgian companies owning the largest titles. While the advertising market recovered from the COVID-19 crisis, the year was also characterised by increased polarisation, several attacks on journalists, and the launch of a new right-wing public broadcaster.
The news boost from the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to wane. Interest among older groups has returned to 2020 levels but the percentage of 18–24s who were ‘very interested’ in news dropped from 51% in 2020 to 39% in 2022.
The digital advertising market recovered after a COVID-19 slump. Although tech giants Facebook and Google benefited most, TV ad-spending reached a new peak in 2021. The two Belgian publishers that dominate the Dutch news market, Mediahuis (owners of De Telegraaf and NRC) and DPG Media (owners of papers such as AD and De Volkskrant) saw their revenues increase. Their dominance prompts worries about pluralism within the Dutch media.
Willingness to pay for online news stabilised at 17%, but some companies reported significant progress. Newspaper NRC hit a record number of print and digital subscribers in 2021,1 and De Volkskrant has seen its digital subscribers increase by almost 20% in two years.
The biggest online news source Nu.nl – acquired in 2019 by DPG Media – now requires a login to access in-depth articles, podcasts, and videos from DPG’s newspapers. The strategy is to preserve free access, through charging more for targeted ads. DPG Media has followed Mediahuis in ending its collaboration with Blendle, the pioneering Dutch online news aggregator, raising questions about its future.
A rise in violence against journalists culminated in the murder of crime reporter and TV-personality Peter R. de Vries. Other attacks included a Molotov cocktail-attack at the home of local journalist Willem Groeneveld and attacks on journalists by activists against COVID restrictions and at soccer games. The government and police are supporting PersVeilig, an initiative to help protect journalists from violence and aggression.
Sexual misconduct in the media drew huge attention after a series of reported incidents at reality TV show The Voice of Holland. The FNV Media & Culture trade union has opened a hotline to report incidents.
Dutch PSB remains in a strong position with NOS the leading and most trusted news brand. But the past year saw attempts to use the uniquely open Dutch PSB system to disrupt the status quo. Under this system NOS (focused on news, parliamentary reporting, and sports), and NTR (responsible for cultural, educational, children's, and ethnic programming) both have a privileged legal status with ring-fenced funding. But the overall system is administered and funded by the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO) which also awards five-year renewable licences and funds to the 11 member-based public broadcasters running the other PSB TV and radio channels. While most of these member-based PSBs are nearly 100 years old, organisations representing new political or cultural segments can apply, with a threshold of 50,000 members as the most important criterion to enable public funding and guaranteed airtime.
In 2021 two new organisations, Omroep Zwart (Network Black) and Ongehoord Nederland (Unheard Netherlands) met the criteria and were appointed by the minister as ‘aspirant’ public broadcasters. They represent very different interests: Omroep Zwart (OZ) aims to make inclusive programmes, representing more diverse minorities (whether in terms of ethnicity, sexual preference, or people with disabilities). The other, Ongehoord Nederland (ON), aims to represent right-wing people who do not feel represented by the existing broadcasters.
ON has had a bumpy start since it started broadcasting in early 2022, claiming to stand for ‘free, plural opinions and preservation of Dutch culture’ and against ‘political correctness’. ON’s campaign had been endorsed by right-wing politicians Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet, who accused the Dutch public broadcaster of ‘propaganda’ and ‘fake news’.2 ON’s early broadcasts drew formal complaints about disinformation, lack of impartiality, and racism, which if upheld could lead to loss of the licence. However, ON’s launch has prompted bigger questions about the sustainability of the current member-based PSB system, free speech versus (protection from) disinformation and discrimination, as well as the possible impact on trust in public broadcasting.
Irene Costera Meijer and Tim Groot Kormelink
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Sources and devices for news remain stable with public broadcaster NOS and free, ad-driven Nu.nl still dominant, respectively, in offline and online news use. Our data show that nearly one-third of people listened to a podcast in the past month.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Although the percentage of people who think media are independent from undue political or government influence (+ five percentage points, pp) or undue business or commercial influence (+7pp) has risen since 2017, trust is down slightly in 2022. Public broadcaster NOS still has the highest trust score (77%), along with regional and local newspaper brands (74%).