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Sunday 26 October  
Radio Netherlands Worldwide HQ in Hilversum
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Radio Netherlands Worldwide to refocus with slashed budget

Published on : 17 June 2011 - 1:48pm | By John Tyler (Photo: Fred Vloo/RNW)
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The Dutch cabinet has announced plans to cut back the activities of Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The Dutch world service will no longer provide information for Dutch people living abroad, or provide the rest of the world with a realistic image of the Netherlands.

Instead, Radio Netherlands Worldwide is to concern itself solely with providing information in countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened.

During his press conference after the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mark Rutte praised the work Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has done.

"Radio Netherlands Worldwide will limit itself to one role, promoting free speech. I think the other tasks RNW performs are nice, valuable, but not enough to finance them with public money."

Austerity programme
The cuts to RNW are part of a widespread austerity programme the current centre-right government is implementing to bring the national budget into balance. In the wake of cuts to higher education, the arts and defence, the government today announced a reorganisation of the entire public broadcasting system.


RNW is not alone

Cuts at other world service broadcasters:

  • BBC World Service: Scrapping 25% of their jobs. Dropping five of their 32 languages.
  • Radio France International: Cut 25% of their employees, and dropped to 11 languages (down from 17)
  • Deutsche Welle: Phasing out short and medium wave broadcasting, and reducing programming for Germans abroad
  • Voice of America: Scaling back Chinese broadcasts
  • Radio Australia: Shifting its output to internet

 


As part of that reorganisation Radio Netherlands Worldwide will no longer fall under the media budget, but become the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry. That move is scheduled to take place on 1 January 2013.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal confirmed the narrower focus - including press freedom - for the Dutch international service:

"Radio Netherlands Worldwide will concern itself with free speech under Foreign Affairs starting in 2013. I will not say anything else about it right now."

Mr Rosenthal explained that, since RNW will remain part of the media budget next year, he does not want to step on his fellow minister’s toes, referring to Media Minister Marja van Bijsterveld.

Parliament
The financial details of these changes to Radio Netherlands Worldwide are not yet clear. The lower house of parliament is due to debate the cuts to RNW in two weeks. Parliament must still approve the cabinet’s planned cuts. The debate is scheduled for 27 June.

'Incomprehensible'
In reaction to the news from The Hague, former foreign minister Bernard Bot, chairman of the RNW supervisory board, said: "I find this cabinet decision incomprehensible for a government whose foreign policy should serve the long-term interests of the Netherlands and the Dutch."

RNW Director-General Jan Hoek echoed the feelings of Mr Bot: "This is an incomprehensible and sad decision. The ministry has chosen the easy way out by passing one quarter of the cuts in public broadcasting (two hundred million euros) in its entirety to one organisation - RNW."

RNW Editor-in-Chief Rik Rensen said: "Our country is known as an important and reliable trading nation. Radio Netherlands Worldwide makes a unique contribution in ten languages, 24 hours a day. For tens of millions of people around the world, RNW is an important source of information and a journalistic calling card for the Netherlands. Is our country really going back behind the dikes?"

 

Petition against the sweeping cuts at RNW

(jt/rk/as)

John Tyler asks Labour Party MP Martijn van Dam for his reaction to the proposed cuts to RNW

Discussion

Robar 11 March 2012 - 4:44pm / South Africa

Radio Netherlands has been a rare source of sane and accurate information that we could turn to for the truth for many decades. One more bastion of western civilization is about to crumble. What next?

GD 3 July 2011 - 1:32am / Canada

I hope when the Dutch economy improves, RNW will resume its excellent programming.

jasmin 19 June 2011 - 5:12pm

wonder what is the latest about this issue...

Mark McConnell 18 June 2011 - 10:21pm / United States

I have listened to the Dutch broadcasts every day for years. It has given me insight into Europe and especially the Netherlands, and it has even motivated me to learn the Dutch language. RNW has served the world by being Nederland to the world. Take that away and its reason for existing at all becomes less clear.

Ned Osborn 18 June 2011 - 5:02am / USA

I feel sick and overwhelmed. I'm not sure what to aay, except that I love and think about the Netherlands every day. To me your country is the beacon of the world and the world is richer every day in it's presence.

Tricia 18 June 2011 - 3:52am / Canada

I'm another Canadian; I've been following RNW online, daily, for years. I began with no particular outstanding interest in the Netherlands, but with an appreciation for the intelligence and insight of the journalism. I hope RNW as an institution outlasts the current government.

Hugh Bibbs 18 June 2011 - 3:32am / Canada

Rising to the top in journalism is all about content. Please continue to spend what mite is left of your budget on your core content providers... your journalists, who go out and dig up the stories. If your mandate is to focus on free speech, then while you dig up the foreign stories for the Foreign Office, be sure and slip in those local stories that set an example of real free speech. You don't really have to cover the western content that is dealt with completely by others like CNN, BBC, CBC, et cetera, but if there are stories, in the Nederlands in particular, that are only going to be covered if you write them yourselves, then that is the meat of free speech. If you are silenced in that regard by directives from your own political masters, then you will have nothing to say to others about free speech.
Good luck to you all in negotiating these stormy waters ahead, and good luck to each one of you who are about to be made "redundant" and given your pink slips. You have all done a great job. Thankyou, all, for that great work done. Lots more to do, and I am sure each one of you will find a way to do it. The truth is, without you and your colleagues around the world, we are all in a bit of a pickle.

brainmanmedia 17 June 2011 - 9:26pm / USA

this is yet another serious blow by The Dutch Gov't to reduce RNW's total output to what is left of the once well heard broadcasting legend for overseas listeners.I for one would like to see RNW continue to work with WRN in providing North America a chance to hear great shows like Euroquest among others including Newsline.Even at reductions,RNW can still be heard on SW for now,but selling Bonaire,Madagascar and other relays could hurt RNW in The Future.

Robert Stein 17 June 2011 - 8:42pm / Brazil

It is a sad day for those who have come to admire Holland and the Dutch people since an early age, in a great part thanks to Radio Nederland's magnificent role. It must be a sad day for the Dutch who have certainly been greeted as friends in their travels to many countries thanks to Radio Nederland. It must be a sad day for those who along decades have worked for Radio Nederland believing their job is important - I can assure you it is!
It is a sad day for those who had a positive attitude towards the Dutch government.
By the way, does "free speech" really exists in countries that claim it exists?

Lou Josephs 17 June 2011 - 7:14pm / US

No you know who the people at United Launch Alliance feel as the shuttle program ends and they loose their jobs as part of a dumb us govn't decision.
I think international broadcasting be it shortwave or the internet has to be re thought with the idea of the audience and how you're going to keep it and grow it. RNW has done a great job of this. However without bucks you don't get buck rogers like craftsman ship.
Politics is a dull and boring occupation until it cuts something you really like then it becomes more of a blood sport..
You wonder why the other NL pubcasters aren't being purged..here in the US public radio and TV is reeling...the state of NJ sold their pubcasters to two other public radio tv groups in NYC and Philadelphia.. but the local programming that was unique to NJ. gone...

user avatar
Andy Sennitt 17 June 2011 - 10:30pm

Lou,

The domestic public broadcasters also have to make big cuts. We are focusing on the RNW situation, but our colleagues in the Media Park are also unhappy with some of the decisions announced by the government that affect them. In particular, most of the broadcasters will be merged rather than purged, and the minister wants to cut the number of broadcasting societies to eight from the current 21. There will be more details in the Media Network Weblog when I've had time to translate some of the material.

Hiram1 17 June 2011 - 6:07pm

"Instead, Radio Netherlands Worldwide is to concern itself solely with providing information in countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened."...If this is the case, then the Netherlands should be a top priority. If a Dutch politician can be placed in the docket for speaking out against the threats of Islam, then RNW should foucus on free speech in the Netherlands.

Diane Armstrong 17 June 2011 - 5:07pm / Canada

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed listening to the Dutch perspective on world events over the past many years. I especially like The State We're In, Earth Beat and Global Perspectives - all of which have been carried in the overnight broadcasts of CBC radio in Canada. RNW performs a wonderful service and although I know economics has been a deciding factor, it pains me to see that ALL governments cut back first on the arts and education before they cut back on bloated executive salaries. Just my point of view from Canada.

jasmin 17 June 2011 - 3:03pm

Sorry to know about the views of the govt to discontinue the Dutch service, which infact tells us more about the Dutch. The Dutch site is lovely and it will be sad to see it go. The focus on free speech is admirable and hope all that is already on Rnw falls under free speech. Hope you are able to present your case effectively on the 27 June, and impress the parliament with your work so far.Best wishes RNW. Be bold and give it your all to stay afloat!

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