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The Netherlands – (F1) Geographic distribution of news media availability

Score in short:

A wide variety of news and information media is available to all Dutch citizens, although regional news coverage varies from province to province.

Score in detail:

Print media

In 2008, the situation with regard to the print media is as follows. There are 11 national and 26 regional newspapers (CvM 2009). There are, moreover, 4 free papers and 4 weekly news magazines. The average circulation of newspapers stands at 5.3 million copies. Among the national papers there are 4 quality papers (among which are De Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad/, with an average daily circulation in 2008 of 216,126 and 83,363, respectively), 2 popular papers (including the largest newspaper of the Netherlands, De Telegraaf, with a circulation of 666,555), 2 papers with a Christian-protestant profile and 4 specialist papers, among which is Het Financieele Dagblad (circulation 64,449). each of the twelve Dutch provinces has at least one regional newspaper. De Gelderlander is the largest regional paper (circulation 157,263); its readership is to be found in the province of Gelderland.

Free newspapers such as Sp!ts (430,331) are distributed nation-wide, mainly in the Dutch railway stations. The largest of the 4 weekly news magazines is Elsevier (142,581 copies). Most national dailies and weeklies are available in the whole of the country, either in single issues or by subscription. Single copies of regional papers are available in the region on which they focus, and by mail subscription.

Television and radio

In 2008, we find 20 television channels specifically focusing on the Netherlands (CvM 2009). Half of them are generalist channels with wide-ranging programs and divergent genres. The others are niche channels, special-interest channels for music, children’s television, documentaries or sports. Six of the 10 generalist channels carry newscasts in one form or another. The average viewing time per day amounts to 184 minutes; some 70 % of this time is divided between the general-interest channels of the public broadcaster and its two major commercial rivals. The three channels of the public broadcaster NPo carry several news bulletins per day, the chief one being the NOS Acht uur journaal of Nederland 1. For the public broadcaster, the first-line newscast is an obligation imposed by legislation. The commercial counterpart is RTL Nieuws, a daily newscast at 19.30h on RTL4. RTL7 for its part provides daily financial-economic news items labeled RTLZ (the z standing for the Dutch Zaken or ‘business’). SBS6 has a program Hart van Nederland (‘Heart of the Netherlands’), a news bulletin focusing on regional news. Apart from news bulletins, the three public channels also present current affairs and opinion programs as well as a few investigative programs. In addition to the national public channels, each Dutch province also has its own regional public television channel; moreover, there are 122 local television channels addressing one or more towns and villages. They provide, among other things, regional and local news bulletins. Finally, Dutch audiences can also tune in to a large number of foreign channels, including the public channels of Flemish Belgium, Germany and Britain and various commercial channels, among which is the American CNN.

There are twenty-odd radio stations catering to the Dutch audience, nearly all presenting a music format. Yet virtually all stations interrupt their programs every hour and sometimes even every half hour to air short news bulletins, which are provided to the public stations by NoS and to their commercial rivals by the press agency ANP. only the public Radio 1 station and the commercial BNR Nieuwsradio carry news bulletins around the clock. Average daily listening time amounts to 195 minutes, about 60 % of this being divided between the public broadcaster and its two major commercial counterparts. Just as for television, there are regional radios in every province and there are a further 265 local stations carrying news bulletins. Finally, Dutch listeners can also receive public as well as commercial radio stations from neighboring countries.

Both television and radio broadcasts are mainly received via the cable network. Cable-network operators have to offer a basic package as defined in the 1997 Media Law: it includes at least 15 television channels and 25 radio stations. The three Dutch public broadcasters are governed by the must-carry principle, as are the regional and local public broadcasters and the two Flemish public broadcasters. The remaining channels in the package are selected by the cable operators, with local programming boards having an advisory role. A standard package consists of about 35 television and 40 radio channels. In less densely populated areas and in areas with a relatively large population of ethnic minorities, dish antennas are also often used. At the end of 2008, 98 % of all Dutch households owned one or more television sets, and more than half of the households had digital television (de Vries 2008). A standard digital package offers a multitude of television and radio channels, among which are the thematic channels of the public broadcaster. of special significance as far as newscasts are concerned is Journaal 24 (looped repetitions of the latest bulletins) and Uitzending gemist (‘Missed Broadcasts’, catch-up programs among which is the NOS Acht uur journaal).

Online platforms

Eurostat statistics (2010) reveal that, in 2009, 90 % of Dutch households had access to the Internet. A large majority of the population can therefore surf to (news) sites and blogs and get information about news and current affairs all over the world. All Dutch newspapers have an online version, as do the news magazine Elsevier and the television news bulletins of NoS and RTL. The major web-only news media are, and NRC Handelsblad was the first daily in the Netherlands that could be sent over wifi and a special feed to an e-reader (Bright 2008). The websites of news media can also be consulted on mobile (3G) phones and wireless wifi connections. Moreover, since April 2010 trains of the Dutch railways are equipped with free wireless Internet connections. In other words, the free newspapers that used to lure younger readers away from paid newspapers are now in turn faced with competitors in the field of free news.