The Dutch public broadcasting system (Dutch: Nederlands publieke omroepbestel) is a group of organizations that are responsible for public service television and radio broadcasting in the Netherlands. It is composed of the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO) foundation, which acts as its governing body, and a number of public broadcasters. The Dutch Media Act 2008 regulates how air time is divided and puts the administration of the public broadcasting system in the hands of the NPO Board of Directors.[1]

In addition to the national broadcasters, there are also regional and local broadcasters in the Netherlands.

Unlike most other countries' public broadcasting organizations – which are either national corporations (such as the BBC and France Télévisions / Radio France), federations of regional public-law bodies (for example, ARD, SRG SSR) or governmental and member-based institutions with their own channels and facilities (such as PBS) – those in the Netherlands are member-based broadcasting associations that share common facilities. This arrangement has its origins in the system developed in the Netherlands early in the 20th century, known as pillarisation. Under this system the different religious and political streams of Dutch society (Catholics, Protestants, socialists, etc.) all have their own separate associations, newspapers, sports clubs, educational institutions, and also broadcasting organizations.

Their stated aim is to give a voice to each social group in multicultural Dutch society. The number of hours allocated to each broadcaster corresponds roughly to the number of members each organization can recruit (although this does not apply to NOS and NTR – see below). Since 2000, the system has been financed out of general taxation rather than from broadcast receiver licence fees. This is supplemented by a limited amount of on-air advertising (provided by STER), which has been allowed since 1967.

Nearly all viewers in the Netherlands receive most of their linear TV via cable, IPTV (DSL or fiber) or satellite systems. Regional public TV exists in parallel to the national system described below. Commercial television in the Netherlands began in 1989, with the Luxembourg-based RTL 4. In 1992, the government of the Netherlands legalised commercial TV, and many new commercial channels have become established since then.


Every year, the Dutch public broadcasting system is allocated funds from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In 2018 the allocation was 794 million Euro[2] with yearly revenues from advertising averaging around 200 million Euro. The cost to each adult Dutch citizen is approximately 45 Euro per year, which is on a similar level to VRT in Flemish Belgium (46 Euro). In comparison, the BBC in the United Kingdom gets its revenue from an annual household licence fee of 159 GBP, approx 188 Euro. As of 2020, the BBC's average annual licence fee income is 3.7 Billion GBP and the UK adult population is about 53 million (total population is 68 million), so the average cost per person is about 70 GBP.


The closed system (1920–1960)

Since the very beginning in the early 1920s, public broadcasting in the Netherlands has been split into different broadcasting associations with their members composed of listeners and viewers. These associations were based on the different ideological sections of Dutch society, called Verzuiling (pillarisation). Catholics, Protestants and Socialists were the first groups to create their own institutions, including schools, hospitals, trades unions and political parties. When radio in the Netherlands started in the 1920s the existing groups quickly created their own broadcasting associations, producing programmes for the primary radio network, Hilversum 1. The first to start was the liberal AVRO, founded as radio broadcaster Hilversumsche Draadlooze Omroep (HDO) by the NSF transmitter factory in Huizen on 8 July 1923. The first regular radio broadcasts started on 21 July 1923.[3] Airtime was rented to the various religious and political radio organisations—the Protestant NCRV, the Roman Catholic KRO, the Socialist VARA and the liberal Protestant VPRO.

Under the system of pillarisation in place at the time, each audience group was faithful to its pillar's broadcasting company. The programmes were funded by the associations' members. KRO and NCRV started their own station in 1927 with a transmitter also located in Huizen and built by the NSF.

In 1930 the government regulated equal airtime for all organisations on the two stations, and the semi-public broadcasting system was born. As a result, AVRO lost most of its airtime then (50%) to VARA and VPRO.

The radio licence fee was introduced by the Nazi occupation during World War II; the different broadcasting groups were urged by the Government to co-operate more with each other, and the Netherlands Radio Union (Dutch: Nederlandse Radio Unie) was formed, producing joint programmes.

The Netherlands Radio Union was one of 23 founding organisations of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in 1950. (The role of the Dutch representative to the European Broadcasting Union was later inherited by NOS, formed in 1969, and has since September 2002 been the responsibility of NPO.)

1951 saw the introduction of television, and a similar union was founded: the Netherlands Television Foundation (Dutch: Nederlandse Televisie Stichting), supplying studios and facilities for the associations. These broadcasts would air on the Nederland 1 channel; a second channel, Nederland 2, was launched in 1964.

The closed system opens up (1960–1990)

Test card used by NOS from 1978 until 1988. This test card was also used by Deutsche Bundespost Kabelfernsehen in Germany from the 1980s–c. 1999.[4][5]

With the arrival of illegal offshore commercial radio stations, such as Radio Veronica in 1960 and Radio Noordzee in 1964, Hilversum 3 was launched in 1965 to provide a legal alternative and to steer audiences towards the public service channels. Hilversum 3, along with the other two networks, were renamed as Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 towards the late 1980s.

In 1967 a Broadcasting Act was passed, providing for an official framework to supply the public with information, entertainment, culture and education, with time allocated to appointed broadcasting associations based on the number of members each association had. This allowed other organisations access to the public system, including the former commercial unlicensed broadcasters TROS and Veronica and the evangelical Christian EO to diversify programming. Advertising revenue was added, handled by an independent agency called STER.

The Netherlands Radio Union (NRU) and the Netherlands Television Foundation (NTS) merged to form the NOS, charged with providing news and sport programmes as well as with the general coordination of the public system.[6]

A new Media Act in 1988 meant that broadcasters were no longer obliged to use production facilities supplied by the NOS. These facilities were spun off into a new private company, NOB. Programme quotas were introduced: Associations had to produce:

A new media regulator (Commissariaat voor de Media) was created to regulate the public and private networks. The regulator could impose fines, with a programming fund designed to encourage cultural broadcasts. New rules for the cable industry were also introduced: the public networks were designated must-carry status.[clarification needed][6]

The start of private media (1990–2000)

In anticipation of the launch of new commercial satellite channels, a third television network, Nederland 3, launched in April 1988. Luxembourg-based RTL-Véronique began broadcasting in October 1989. In 1992, the government of the Netherlands legalised commercial television, and a number of new commercial channels were established. As a result, the market share of public television had fallen from 85% to 50% by 1994. Veronica decided to leave the public system after 20 years to become a commercial broadcaster. By 1996 the arrival of more private channels from RTL and SBS had further reduced the market share of the public networks to 40%.[6]

With the change in the television landscape, changes were made to strengthen the public sector. Its financial revenues were improved by an increase in advertising time and the indexation of the licence fee to the cost of living. In 1995 the programming duties of the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation, NOS) were split in two, with the creation of the NPS (Netherlands Programming Foundation).[7] NOS was charged with providing news, sport and coverage of important live events, while the NPS provided cultural and children's programming.

The previous NOS management was replaced by a three-person board, charged with developing strategies and responsibility for all public output. Programming co-ordinators were appointed for each of the television and radio networks, and channel identities were created, largely replacing the varying on-air presentation of the pillar broadcasters. The broadcasting associations also have a degree of input through a supervisory board.

The market share of the public networks stabilized in 1999 at 38%,[6] with the entry of a new broadcasting association, the first in 25 years. BNN (Bart's News Network, later Bart's Neverending Network) replaced Veronica as programme supplier to teenagers and young adults.

Diversification, expansion and the creation of the NPO (2000–2010)

Under the new "open system" any company can become a broadcasting company and obtain radio and TV airtime. The only requirement is to request official status from the government and to have enough members[clarification needed]. Broadcasting companies in the Netherlands must ensure every year they have enough members[clarification needed] to retain their official status, and most of them sell TV guides or other magazines and make[clarification needed] every subscriber a member of their organization.

Many people[who?] question whether the current system is still appropriate in this age of digital broadcasting. There were plans in the run-up to the 2002 general election to change the way broadcast companies are selected, and to abolish the member-based system completely. Vocal critics included Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated leader of his own right-wing party. However, currently the system is still the way it always has been.

Prior to the 2002 reorganization, the Dutch public broadcasting system was managed by NOS. In 2002, it was put under control of "Nederlandse Publieke Omroep" (Dutch Public Broadcasting foundation), abbreviated as NPO.[8] According to Article 2.2 of the Dutch Media Act of 2008 [nl], NPO was appointed as the governing organization of the public broadcasting system of the Netherlands until 2020.

From September 2010, Minister of Culture and Education Ronald Plasterk approved the entry of new broadcasting associations PowNed and Wakker Nederland (WNL) into the public broadcasting system. Another association, MAX, was given full recognition and can increase its broadcasting hours. Conversely, LLiNK was withdrawn and no longer has access. Meanwhile, the NPS, Teleac and the RVU institutions merged into one public broadcaster, the NTR, delivering cultural, educational, current affairs and children's programmes to the public system.[9]

Cuts to the public system (2010–present)

On 18 January 2010, Henk Hagoort, chairman of the NPO Management Board, announced a scaling back of the number of broadcasting associations using the public airwaves to 15 by 2015.[10] He also warned of the threat of political parties which could influence programming in the public broadcasting system.

In September 2010 cuts to the public system took effect, with the existing eleven full-time broadcasting associations facing decisions about their futures. Part-time Islamic broadcasters NMO, NIO and the merged SMON were all withdrawn from the public system.

In March 2012, NPO announced the closure of two of its digital television channels, Geschiedenis 24 (History 24) and Consumenten 24 (Consumer 24) on 1 April. History programmes transferred to Holland Doc 24 and consumer programmes are looked after by VARA via an online portal.[11]

Future plans (from 2016)

From 2015, Netherlands Public Broadcasting will face a budget shortfall of 200 million euro. To address this, the number of broadcasting associations within the public system is to be reduced. Mergers and/or cooperations have been confirmed between existing broadcasting associations:

Broadcaster Type Programming
1 KRO-NCRV[12][13][14] Member-based Catholic/Protestant-leaning
2 BNNVARA[15] Member-based Youth and social awareness
3 AVROTROS - PowNed[16] Member-based Popular and general entertainment
4 EO[13] Member-based Protestant
5 MAX and WNL[17] Member-based The elderly (MAX) and right-wing/conservative (WNL)
6 VPRO and HUMAN[18] Member-based Cultural, socially liberal
7 Omroep Ongehoord Nederland![19] Aspiring member Unheard Netherlands
8 Omroep ZWART[19] Aspiring member Inclusivity
7 NOS, Omrop Fryslân,[20] Zendtijd voor Politieke Partijen and Socutera[21] Task-based News, sport, events, political broadcasts, regional
8 NTR[17] Task-based Cultural, education, diversity
9 Ster Other Advertising

List of broadcasters

Member based

There are currently eleven member-based broadcasting associations:[22]

Task based

In addition, there are now two official "public service broadcasters" created under the Media Act of 1988:[6]


Former broadcasters


The broadcasting organisations produce programmes for three main television channels and eight digital channels. Since 4 July 2009 the three main channels have been simulcast in 1080i high-definition. Most programming in the early stages is upscaled as in time more programmes will become available in native HD. In 2008 a temporary high-definition version of the Nederland 1 channel was created from 2 June to 24 August, to broadcast Euro 2008, the 2008 Tour de France, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in HD before the launch of the permanent HD service.



Available via digital cable, satellite, and internet.




Digital and web channels

The following digital and web channels are available via NPO Radioplayer. Channels are themed according to its parent network and/or the broadcasting association. Some of these channels appear on digital cable, on cable FM as well as the national DAB multiplex.[29]


NPO Start/NPO Plus

NPO Start is an online video on demand service accessible through the NPO Start website and through the apps for Android, iOS and Smart TV. NPO Start is free of charge and offers a variety of programmes shown on NPO 1, NPO 2 and NPO 3 the past 7 days. There is a subscription premium service as well that is called NPO Plus. This service allows viewers to watch shows and TV series that were broadcast more than 7 days ago. There are also no commercial breaks.[30]

NPO Start launched on 4 July 2017. It replaced Uitzending Gemist launched in 2003.[31]

Regional broadcasters

In addition to the national system, each Dutch province also had a broadcasting corporation supplying its own programming to its television and radio stations from 1989 to 2021.

See also


  1. ^ "Welke rol speelt de NPO als organisatie binnen het Nederlandse omroepbestel?" (in Dutch). NPO ( Archived from the original on 2013-04-05. Retrieved 2014-11-23.
  2. ^ Dutch Wikipedia article[circular reference]
  3. ^ "Fusieperikelen in omroepland in de jaren '20, 8 July 2013". Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Testbild - altes Bundespost-Testbild vom Kabelfernsehen". YouTube.
  5. ^ "Deutsche Bundespost Testbild Kabelnetz Bonn - "KOELN 8"". YouTube.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Kijk en luister op". Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  7. ^ "NTR". Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  8. ^ "Hoe verhouden de NPO en de NOS zich tot elkaar?". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08.
  9. ^ "NTR". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  10. ^ "Article in English". Archived from the original on 2011-02-10. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  11. ^ "Over NPO". Archived from the original on 2014-08-14.
  12. ^ "KRO en NCRV overleggen over samenwerking". 29 August 2010.
  13. ^ a b "Joodse Omroep sluit zich aan bij eo".
  14. ^ "Boeddistische Omroep gaat op in KRO-NCRV".
  15. ^ Van onze verslaggeefster Sara Berkeljon. "Patrick Lodiers: BNN en VARA willen één bedrijf worden". De Volkskrant.
  16. ^ "TROS en AVRO willen fuseren". NU. 6 May 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Advies Omroeperkenningen 2016-2020" (PDF). Raad voor Cultuur. 5 March 2020.
  18. ^ "human is erkend als aspirant-omroep". 14 January 2015. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015.
  19. ^ a b Slob, Arie (2021-07-08). "Kamerbrief TK over erkenningen publiek bestel 2022 - 2026" (PDF).
  20. ^ Zie Uitvoeringsconvenant Friese taal en cultuur 2009, Hoofdstuk 5.4
  21. ^ "Socutera - Goede Doelen Nederland". Archived from the original on 2012-06-05. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  22. ^ "Our organisation". About NPO. Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO). Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  23. ^ "Llink vraagt surseance aan". Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  24. ^ "Geen nieuw onderdak voor Moslim Omroep".
  25. ^ "Nederlandse Moslim Omroep failliet". 26 March 2010.
  26. ^ "NPO Focus - Weet meer". NTR Focus.
  27. ^ Dat was tevens de eerste uitzending van Veronica in het publieke bestel. English: This was the first broadcast from Veronica in the public system
  28. ^ SRG interactive. "Sky Radio". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24.
  29. ^ "DAB Ensembles Worldwide - Netherlands".
  30. ^ Marianna Beets (5 July 2017). "Uitzending Gemist wordt NPO Start". (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  31. ^ "NPO: Uitzending Gemist verder als NPO Start, met betaaldienst". (in Dutch). 4 July 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2021.