At the entrance to the media park in Hilversum, large yellow flags with a circular logo and the inscription: Media Pact Respectful Collaboration. That media pact is the most tangible consequence of the recent revelations about inappropriate behavior in programs such as The world goes on, NOS Studio Sports and The Voice. In response, the major players in the media sector – the NPO, RTL, Talpa, EMG, NEP, NCP – decided to join forces. “Against transgressive behavior and for a safe and inspiring working environment,” as Manon van der Hoek, chairman of the Dutch Content Producers, puts it in a slick video on the pact’s website.
But in Hilversum there are doubts about the usefulness of the Media Pact. Because the only concrete initiative was an ‘Online Event’ in September last year, during which Humberto Tan entered into discussions with the top people of the six initiating parties, the government commissioner for cross-border behavior, and the new board of Mores, a reporting center for undesirable behavior in the cultural sector. During that event, government commissioner Mariëtte Hamer said: “In the past year and a half, we have spoken to each other from the talk show table to the kitchen table. This has partly ensured that an approach to cross-border behavior has been initiated. The Media Pact further fleshes this out.”
That interpretation has been a long time coming. The pact wanted to start last month with an online course for all media companies. The training must be completed by all internal and external employees, editors and managers. But nothing is known about it yet at various broadcasters. This has created the image that the Media Pact is a talking shop, a facade for the outside world, while everything remains the same. Last year, Hamer spoke positively about the Media Pact plans and said she wanted to quickly discuss next steps with the parties. Now she says no NRC: “It needs to be a lot more specific.” Kim Koppenol, communications director of RTL, did not want to respond to questions.
Those responsible remain seated
The slow start does not inspire much confidence that Hilversum is working on a cultural change after all the scandals. This image is reinforced by the report that the committee led by former minister Martin van Rijn published this week. Because three in four respondents reported having had to deal with inappropriate behavior in the past year. And although the committee makes an overturned assessment of the management of the public broadcaster, most of the people involved in the recent scandals are still in place or have a new influential position in Hilversum. For example, Frans Klein, the controversial Video Director of the NPO, quietly left for Talpa in the summer. And Matthijs van Nieuwkerk signed a contract with RTL, where he will present a new show from April.
Hamer reacted critically when Van Nieuwkerk’s transfer was announced in December. In a post on LinkedIn, she called it “painful” that RTL announced the deal before the Van Rijn committee had completed its work. Because with this the channel seemed to send the signal that it did not matter what the outcome of the investigation would be. “I approached RTL about this,” says Hamer. “What I find positive is that RTL plays a pioneering role in the Media Pact, and thus wanted to pay attention to the workplace. But in the way in which RTL presented the switch, I thought there was too little attention for the people who were the victims.”
MAX director Jan Slagter: “It seems as if the public broadcaster is a major hotbed of sexual misconduct and intimidation. While people are having a great time here.”
The publication of the report, and the extent and severity of the reported misconduct that it reveals, strengthens the call in Hilversum for a settlement with those responsible. Van Nieuwkerk is under fire due to new reports of misconduct, and a lump sum payment of one DWDDemployee with whom he had an affair. Still, the chance that RTL will drop it seems small; the ink is barely dry on his contract and a lot of money is involved. The same goes for Klein. There is nothing to indicate that Talpa would want to get rid of him in light of the hard conclusions drawn by the Van Rijn committee.
“It is very bad that the old guard, who turned a blind eye to all this misconduct, remains in place,” says a broadcaster who wishes to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject. “I find it complicated that no heads roll after everything that has happened. That people do not take responsibility and simply stay put without anything changing. As a result, young employees will not be inclined to report inappropriate behavior. That’s the biggest problem. If this continues, nothing will be solved.”
In response to the report of the Van Rijn committee, Omroep MAX director Jan Slagter told a reporter from Sophie & Jeroen that many responsible people in Hilversum remain untouched, including at BNNVARA. When Jeroen Pauw presented this to BNNVARA director Suzanne Kunzeler at the talk show table, she replied evasively: “I don’t know. I think we had many incisive conversations, including with people who worked at BNNVARA at the time and still work. I think it is important that people go along with the new work culture. But at the specific positions [die destijds direct betrokken waren bij de schandalen] There are all new people, so in that sense we are pursuing a new policy.”
However, Lonneke van der Zee, the current general director of BNNVARA, was there during the most intense period DWDD board secretary of the broadcaster. A number of former employees feel that this is the reason that Kunzeler is now speaking out about inappropriate behavior. According to BNNVARA, this is because “she just does it well,” says a spokesperson.
Skepticism among the old guard
At BNNVARA a start seems to have been made with the culture change. This also applies to other broadcasters. For example, all initiators of the Media Pact have joined Mores and offer training where employees learn to deal with inappropriate behavior. The confidential counselors of the initiators also meet regularly to share experiences.
Yet there is also a lot of skepticism in Hilversum about the need for a cultural change. Especially among the old guard, who tend to dismiss complaints about inappropriate behavior as hypersensitivity on the part of the public woke-generation. This voice is expressed by people like Jan Slagter, who, in response to the report of the Van Rijn committee, seemed to downplay the extent and seriousness of the reported behavior. So he said The Telegraph: “If you read the headlines on the websites, it seems as if the public broadcaster is a major hotbed of sexual misconduct and intimidation. […] People here now say: I hardly dare to say on a birthday that I work at the NPO. While they are having a great time here.”
How did the report of the Van Rijn committee go down in Hilversum?
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