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Friday 19 December  
Bye bye RNW English section
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

WebWorld: the controversial issues were always the most popular ones

Published on : 20 June 2012 - 9:45pm | By Gerhard Verduijn (Photo: RNW)
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Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) is changing course and goes forward in a slimmed-down version: a smaller organisation focussing on Free Speech. From the old RNW to the new: a tour of the desks which will be terminated or changing their approach.

Header photo, clockwise from left: Amsterdam Red Light District (photo: Puisney); Morning in Holland photo; EuroHit40's Tim Fisher; video reporter Eric Beauchemin; the Holland football squad

"RNW 2.0" is the name we use for the "old" Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Version 3.0 will be RNW, the Dutch free speech promoter from 2013.

Part 1: WebWorld, the English-language desk

“Subjects such as drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and homosexuality were particularly popular.”
WebWorld pulled out all the stops one last time for Euro2012. Football expert Theo Tamis provided extensive reporting on the performance of the Dutch team, making WebWorld the only English medium to cover the activities of the Holland team on a day-to-day basis. Theo Tamis’ dispatches from Poland and Ukraine were picked up by foreign media such as the BBC and RTE.

"WebWorld is a relatively new department at Radio Netherlands. It was formed when the old English department was split up. The State We’re In and Earth Beat programmes became part of another editorial desk. The current affairs programme Newsline and the RNW website became a new department: WebWorld,” says editor Rob Kievit.

Focus on the Netherlands
In addition to running the English website, WebWorld was in charge of RNW’s 24/7 English-language radio programming via satellite and webstream. Some programmes were broadcast to Africa and Asia via shortwave. These programmes included popular shows like The State We’re In, Bridges with Africa, Live at the Concertgebouw and European Jazz Stage. The website underwent one significant change: it was focussed exclusively on the Netherlands.

‘Even though that was quite a radical change, it did provide clarity,” says Ashleigh Elson, WebWorld’s social media producer. “The choice of the Netherlands made the work more manageable and clearly defined. Before, the site was very broad in scope, covering a huge variety of subjects from across the globe.”

About 20 staff were assigned to the new desk. “The web reports were doing well and the videos on Dutch subjects were popular. The videos were edited so they could be understood by a global audience. Some of them drew thousands of visitors, particularly on subjects such as drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and homosexuality.”

Some of the radio programmes and web articles were passed on to partner sites such as Expatica, a website for English-speaking expats in the Netherlands. WebWorld also collaborated with Flandersnews, a site offering Dutch-language news reports from a Belgian perspective.

Rob Kievit and Ashleigh Elson look back with pride, singing the praises of the fine productions and the enthusiasm and team spirit of their colleagues. These were the foundations on which WebWorld was built. Rob Kievit specifically mentions the department’s freelancers as a major factor in the WebWorld success story. “They were mostly native speakers who took root in Dutch society and were ideally suited to work from a Dutch perspective.”

Free speech
Radio Netherlands Worldwide will continue to host an English-language website but its content will change, albeit gradually. The Netherlands will no longer be the site’s main focus. The new site will instead focus on promoting free speech in China, a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On 29 June, WebWorld is bidding its listeners a festive farewell with a one-hour radio show via shortwave and satellite that can be listened to around the globe. The 24-hour programming for that day will include a number of older programmes, such as Happy Station, Curious Orange and Euroquest.

After that sad farewell, visitors of WebWorld will have to turn to, Expatica or English Breakfast Radio for Dutch news reports in English. 24 Oranges (blog and Twitter) provides funny stories about the Netherlands

Reactions to the demise of WebWorld, and with it the Netherlands' English voice on the radio, varied from shock and surprise to anger.

“I am gonna miss the great programs coming out from your Hilversum studio. Many thanks for being a unique broadcaster on the radio scene with quality programs standing out from the rest,” wrote one fan.

Another listener said: “I will miss you guys very much. RNW helped me feel connected with my Dutch roots, and to a country I’ve never visited.” And finally: “These cuts are crazy. I’ve been learning a lot about Dutch culture thanks to RNW. I’ll miss your excellent service.”

The editors will also feel the loss. “The bond with our audience has been severed. And that’s painful. Even though we’ve never met, you know you share something.”




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jasmin 25 June 2012 - 2:49pm

Thanks for the various WebWorld programmes and Euro2012 dispatches.Feeling sad that the Oranje couldn't make it to the top.Best wishes to you all in the English section. Wish it wouldn't go out of is a very sad ending to a beautiful radio station..

John Lang 23 June 2012 - 8:11am / United States

I am greatly saddened by the loss of RNW. When I lived in Japan I looked forward to your broadcasts and when I moved back to USA I listened via shortwave and internet. Truly a great broadcast service with a first rate staff of writers,announcers,reporters and technicians. This is a loss to the world and to the Netherlands. At a time when we need to be able to hear as many voices and opinions as possible to have this service curtailed is a short sighted view to making the books balance. I hope someday cooler heads will prevail and this service will be restored to it's full potential. This service has changed lives in ways that cannot be quantified by some actuarial table. These kinds of programs may not have the seemiing importance as other govermental projects however from a humanitarian perspective the value is nothing short of priceless.

Daniel D 22 June 2012 - 3:59am / United States

RNW is seeming to go the way of Deutsche Welle and Radio France International (RFI English Service), cutting back greatly on enlightening news and editorial coverage and spending a disproportionate amount of time on African News.

Please don't construe that last statement as racist. I am interested in hearing about African News, something which is lacking on North American radio. However, if there is a major event in Asia, the Americas, or Europe (which, like it or not, is the homebase of these stations), I really don't want to hear about another story about dysfunctional government in Liberia or Sierra Leone; at the very least, please truncate this.

It seems as if the BBC World Service (and, to a lesser degree, NPR in the United States, the CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia)- especially useful for Asia/Pacific Reporting, and the web streams of Euronews and France 24 (the latter is associated with RFI) has become the default choice for those interested in 'serious' world news.

Another writer stated that Swiss Radio International is no more. World Radio Switzerland, a domestic service based in Geneva and under the SSR Umbrella, is under threat of closing. The English service of Radio Exterior Espana, which I thought was very good, is a shadow of its former self.

RNW, I know 'austerity' is affecting everybody, but please at least broadcast even a truncated version of "Newsline."

Thank you for reading.

Vera Gottlieb 21 June 2012 - 4:45pm / Germany

Free speech? Free to express an opinion? Lately, so many of RNW articles are no longer providing a 'comments' section. Muzzling the peons? Double-speak a la Orville?

Anonymous 22 June 2012 - 9:36am

Do you mean Orwell? As in George Orwell, author of 1984. Shame RNW can't find a way of muzzling stupid, bigoted people.

user avatar
Rob Kievit 23 June 2012 - 10:15pm

Anonymous! Will you please refrain from being unkind to other participants in the discussion. RNW is not in the habit of muzzling people, by the way.

Ms Gottlieb, in case you're interested, is one of our long-standing site visitors who regularly makes an effort to post well-considered remarks about our articles. She is human and therefore prone to make the occasional error. Like yourself.


Vera Gottlieb 22 June 2012 - 6:35pm / Germany

Speaking about Orwell (did I get it right this time???):

Vera Gottlieb 22 June 2012 - 4:33pm / Germany

You never make mistakes?

paulette 21 June 2012 - 2:40pm / france

sorry guys, now you too know what budget cuts are!

Anonymous 21 June 2012 - 5:20am

Well it seems RNW is going the way of Swiss Radio International. Swiss Info is a poor excuse to keep Switzerland on the web. Bob Zanotti who was with SRI for many year started Switzerland In Sound, which does a much better job than silly Swiss Info. Radio Canada International on June 24th goes the same way. One a web presents? How do you reach an audience in China? As soon as you start to focus on human rights, it's only a matter of time that RNW's site is blocked in China.

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