The 13 regional public broadcasters in the Netherlands

Dutch Senate voted in favor of the new Media law (Mediawet) today, after the Dutch Parliament already agreed on the bill last October. This is considered to be a major achievement for ROOS, the umbrella organization for regional public broadcasting in the Netherlands. ROOS and the broadcasters have been working for the last year and a half on a plan to bring all thirteen regional public broadcasters together while maintaining their editorial independence.

The public service media landscape in the Netherlands today is one of its kind. In the regions, thirteen public broadcasters are operating, all fully independent of each other. Each has its own board of directors and supervisory boards. The common interests of these thirteen broadcasters are represented by the five-employee umbrella organization ROOS.

Every fifth year, all thirteen stations have to ask for their licence to broadcast from the Dutch Media Authority, build thirteen separate budgets, and report on their usage of public money.

This Tuesday’s vote in Senate was a first step to a major change.

Meet RPO, the 13-in-one organization

In this step, a new company applies for one license for all broadcasters. The new organization will also define a combined policy for technical solutions, human resources and accounting. The date for the takeoff for the new Regionale Publieke Omroep (RPO), which stands for Regional Public Broadcasters is now discussed between the Dutch government and ROOS.Gerard Schuiteman, Managing Director, ROOS

“It’s an important step for regional public broadcasting”, says Gerard Schuiteman, ROOS’s managing director. The revised version of the Media law will allow for the creation of the new entity. But going from ROOS to RPO comes with a set of challenges. In the last 18 months, Mr Schuiteman and his organization were commissioned by the government to generate nearly 12% of savings on the budget set for regional public broadcasters. This would be achieved by merging departments such as HR and accounting and unifying technical choices among stations, while trying to allow staff members to stay in their regions.

Six more month to execute the plan

The new media law is also giving some fresh air to the Regional Broadcasters, in comparison to the original demands of the government. Richel Bernsen, Senior Policy Maker, ROOSTheir mission was to generate 17 million euros worth of savings in 2017 but discussions in Senate caused a delay of six month, lowering the requirements to a 8.5 million euros budget drop in 2017. The full 17 million savings remain to be reached in 2018.

By then, “the government will only have one negotiation partner rather than thirteen” explains Richel Bernsen, ROOS’s senior policy-maker. In the first period of its existence, RPO will focus on obtaining its licence for the coming five years. The next step will be to go from thirteen boards and supervisory boards to one.

Editorial independence maintained

The organizational shift shouldn’t be obvious to the viewer. All thirteen brands will continue to exist and every broadcaster will keep its editorial independence. Mr Schuitemann believes that the reform should allow the broadcasters to fully focus on the making of better, news oriented programmes again.

As of today, 1.250 employees are working for Public Regional Media in the Netherlands.