A strong PSB and a high degree of media concentration continue to characterise the Dutch media landscape, but regulators have put a stop to further market consolidation. After previous reports of sexual misconduct at commercial broadcasters in 2022, a toxic workplace culture was also exposed within the PSB.
Alongside the popular public service news organisation NOS, the Belgian-owned commercial publishers DPG Media and Mediahuis continue to dominate both the offline and online news market. However, 2022 was the year when financial pressures seemed to accelerate the move to digital in the commercial sector. Both commercial publishers faced increasing delivery and production costs and increasing cancellations of print subscriptions, and the CEO of Mediahuis proclaimed that ‘the end of the print newspaper is nearer than we thought’.1 However, Mediahuis (+13%) and DPG Media (+14%) each reported a growth in digital subscribers in 2022. DPG Media (owner of Algemeen Dagblad [AD], De Volkskrant, Trouw, Het Parool, and regional titles) removed its paywalls for subscribers to one of their titles, granting them digital access to the premium content across all their titles.
In a rare attempt at collaboration, the five major Dutch players (NPO, RTL, Talpa, DPG Media, Mediahuis) joined forces in a new initiative – Datakluis (Data Vault). Datakluis would create a new data infrastructure allowing Dutch users to store their personal digital data locally and control access. The companies hope this will reduce their dependence on Google and Meta and get a larger share of advertising revenues through increased personalisation. The plan is currently at the research stage and has applied for a €50m government grant. Commercial media companies also joined forces to negotiate with tech giants about compensation for usage of their news content.
In a break with the trend towards market consolidation, the Netherlands Competition Authority (ACM) blocked the acquisition of Talpa Network (which includes SBS TV) by RTL Nederland, who together dominate the commercial TV market. ACM argued that the merger would make RTL too powerful and able to set TV advertising prices.
Like other public broadcasters NOS is working hard to attract and retain younger viewers and its brand NOS op 3 within NOS News is at the forefront of those efforts. Having succeeded in building audiences on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, NOS op 3 has now started to experiment with the livestream platform Twitch. In its weekly livestream, it summarises the week's news and holds a Q&A session with the audience.
Several media companies are launching podcasts as one way to appeal to younger audiences – most Dutch podcast listeners are under 35. Around a quarter (28%) of our sample say they have consumed a podcast in the last month.
Aspirant PSB Ongehoord Nederland (ON) (Unheard Netherlands) continues its controversy-riddled run. ON claims to give a voice to people who feel unrepresented by existing broadcasters and seeks to add a ‘critical voice’ on issues such as globalisation, immigration, and climate policy. The Dutch PSB system allows any player that differs from existing PSBs and gathers 50,000 paying members to become an ‘aspirant’ broadcaster, with guaranteed public funding and airtime.
In the last year ON has been fined twice (€84,000 and €56,000) by NPO – the umbrella administrative body for all public broadcasting services in the Netherlands – for breaches of the journalistic code by spreading disinformation, or bringing the PSB into disrepute. In November 2022, the NPO Ombudsman determined ON was in breach for continuing to spread disinformation, thereby risking a third fine. While the Media Law provides for a license to be revoked after just two fines, that didn’t happen; ON is still operating as of spring 2023. The Secretary of Culture and Media did install an Advisory Board on Public Service Broadcasting to advise her on admission and accountability criteria for public broadcasters.
The past year has also seen two high-profile scandals involving different forms of workplace bullying at the PSB. The first centred on a talkshow host whose alleged ‘extreme outbursts of anger and public humiliation’ led dozens of employees to be given sick leave. The host resigned and the Minister told the PSB to produce an action plan to prevent such behaviour. Then in March 2023, another story broke about bullying, (sexual) intimidation, and discrimination at the sports division of the PSB news channel NOS Nieuws. The editorial board for NOS Sport resigned and NOS has announced an organisation-wide investigation into its workplace culture.
Tim Groot Kormelink and Irene Costera Meijer
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Public broadcaster NOS and free, ad-driven NU.nl continue to dominate, respectively, offline and online news use. Traditional sources for news (TV, print) are down by around 5pp over the past two years, but online news remains stable overall.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Dutch news continues to enjoy high trust levels, ranking equal 4th out of 46 countries. Public broadcaster NOS still is the most trusted brand, closely followed by commercial counterpart RTL Nieuws and local and regional newspapers. More partisan media and tabloid media tend to be less well trusted.