History of Television

Where It All Started: Radio 1 Million Television Sets
The Government Foreign Programs
Financial Support The Second Television Channel
World War II The New System
The Booming Years of Radio Cable Television
The First Television Broadcast The Media Act of 1988
Television Foundation A Third Television Station: NL3
The Television Act of 1956 Commercial Television

The history of the Dutch broadcasting system starts on November 6th 1919 with radio. On this date the first Dutch program is sent into the ether. In the ten following years the radio system grows to a mature level and this is where the Dutch Broadcasting System, as it is know today, is born.

Where It All Started: Radio

The shape of Dutch broadcasting comes from the way Dutch society is formed. The origins of its structure predate the development of broadcasting. At the end of the 19th century, Catholics and Protestants rebelled against the dominance of the conservative liberals. The religious groups were successful in winning subsidization for their schools equal to that of the state schools. This success led to a separate institutional framework for each religious group. Each had its own political party, church, trade union, school, and newspapers. The broadcasting system developed in the 1920s and it conformed to this concept.

The seven broadcasting associations represent cultural, religious, or political mainstreams in Dutch Society. One association in Catholic (KRO), two are Protestant (EO and NCRV), one is Socialist (VARA), and three are independent (AVRO, VPRO, and TROS). Smaller organizations are also given some time in the broadcast schedule.

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The Government

In the 1930s the government is starting to interfere. The Ministry of Traffic, where radio belonged under, passed the first broadcasting act. Through this act the time available in the ether is divided equally under the broadcasting associations.
At this time 40 to 50 hours of radio were broadcasted on two channels. The broadcasting act also stated that there were to be no commercials on the radio, to prevent commercial dependence.

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Financial Support

All broadcasting associations fully depend on their members. In the 1930s most of the associations have more than 100.000 members who pay their fee, besides that people often donated money in collection jars.
From this money they build their radio stations and buy ENG vans. (Electronic News Gathering) Further more, every broadcasting association has its own television guide.

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World War II

In May 1940 the Germans took over the Netherlands. In the beginning the radio-broadcasters were left alone and went on with their programming. Except for censorship.
On March 9th 1941 the Nazi's stopped all radio broadcasting and replaced it with one radio station. Hitler's people mainly operated this station.
Solely listening fees supported this broadcaster, a system the Germans introduced. Every radio owner had to pay a certain fee.
This radio channel did not become a success because people rather listened to radio stations from the allied forces and Radio Orange. Radio Orange was a Dutch channel that was broadcasted from London.
In 1943 the Germans decided they did not like this and banned all radios and confiscated them. In the beginning it looked like this worked, because every radio was registered with the introduction of the listening fees but many people just gave their old radios to the Germans and kept their newer ones. On top of that ten thousands of people build their own receiver.

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The Booming Years of Radio

In the years after the war radio grows. In 1945 there are 300.000 radio receivers. In 1949 this grows to be 1.337.000. The broadcasting associations start expanding their target audiences to the big audience and the differences between them start to fade. The programs become shorter and more popular. There are more family programs, more music and fewer lectures. At night the whole family gathers to listen to these programs. The associations start growing quickly. While most of the associations have about 100.000 members in 1947, thirteen years later, in 1960 the big associations have about 400.000 to 500.000 members. But this is long after television made its first appearance.

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The First Television Broadcast

On October 2nd 1951 the Prime Minister of the Netherlands talks to the people of Holland through the first television broadcast.
In the beginning of 1952 there are only about 500 televisions in the whole country. This is understandable because televisions were very expensive and there was only three hours of broadcasting per week. Further more the only transmitter does not cover the whole country. More have to be built and in 1960 the whole country can receive the channel.

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Television Foundation

Already in the 1930s the radio broadcasting associations wanted to make use of this new medium and start broadcasting on it. When television was introduced in the Netherlands they had already formed their own organization, the NTS. (Dutch Television Foundation)
Because the NTS was one organization of all the broadcasters the government started interfering in the role the NTS had. The big question was if they should make programs together as the NTS or separate as different broadcasters.

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The Television Act of 1956

The television act of 1956 states that all the broadcasters make programs together as the NTS. This act also introduces watching fees, that are the same as listening fees but more expensive. The airing time expands to 10 hours per week.

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1 Million Television Sets

Television grows to be very popular. In 1957 there are 100.000 television sets, four years later the first million is reached. In 1958 airtime increases to 12 hours. Two years later this becomes 18 hours and in 1962 people can watch television for 30 hours per week.

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Foreign Programs

The first foreign programs were bought at the end of the 1950s. They are mostly from England and America. These programs are cheaper than the productions made at home and on top of that it was an easy way to fill the growing airtime.

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The Second Television Channel

When the second channel opened, the question arose if this channel should become commercial or not. With this in mind the TROS formed. A new independent broadcasting association. The government decided that this channel would not become commercial but that there should be, so called, ether commercials.
Advertising started to provide a part of the operational funds for broadcasting and license fees the rest. Stichting Ether Reclame (STER; Foundation for Advertising Over the Air), a governement body, produces and sells all broadcast advertising. Commercial announcements are allowed immediately before and after scheduled news programs and in blocks between programs.(NOTE: not during programs) All STER profits go back into public broadcasting.

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The New System

On the 1st of December 1965 the new open system was introduced. The existing associations get an A-status. Only the VPRO gets a C-status. The status depends on how many members the association has and decides on how much airtime they get.
The new system makes it possible for new organizations to enter. But there is more: starting in January 1967 there are television commercials before and after the news.
The overlooking organization of the broadcasting associations, the NTS, becomes the NOS, the Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation. Besides overlooking the whole broadcasting system, the NOS also gets its own airtime.

The TROS is the first new one in the open system, they start in 1966. One year later they get the C-status. Another seven years later they have gathered 450.000 members and get the A-status.
In 1970 the protestant EO begins broadcasting and in 1984 they get a B-status. Another new station entered the system in 1973, Veronica. This is the 8th broadcasting association on the two existing channels. Within eight years they get the A-status and since 1988 Veronica is the biggest broadcaster with more than 1 million members. All other broadcasters received their A-status too.

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Cable Television

During all this time most of the Netherlands has cable. Besides the two Dutch channels, people can watch three German, two Belgian and later two English channels. In the early 1980s satellite channels like Sky Channel, Super Channel and MTV were added. These were real American commercial channels were the commercials paid for the programming.
At first they were seen as a threat to the Dutch broadcasting system, but then it seemed that the competition was not that big. At the end of 1987 Sky and Super Channel did not even have 1 percent of the total market. The new subscription television channel, FilmNet, did not have that many customers either. Channels one and two had a total of 87% of the market in 1987.

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The Media Act of 1988

In 1988, the Media Act made significant changes in the role NOS played in Dutch broadcasting. Previously, organizations were required to use NOS facilities for all productions. This was changed to 75%, breaking the NOS monopoly and allowing other producers to provide programs.
The Media Act also created the Media Authority, a supervising institute that kept an eye on how broadcasters follow the rules of the new Media Act.

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A Third Television Channel: NL3

In 1988, three months after the new Media Act, a third channel enters the Ether. The associations, still together in the NOS, made a whole new programming for the three channels. On Netherlands 1, the AVRO, KRO and the NCRV air. On Netherlands 2, the TROS, Veronica and the EO were the broadcasters that divided the time. And on the new channel, Netherlands 3, NOS, VPRO and VARA aired. All other smaller organizations that were allowed to broadcast and got time on Netherlands 3 too.

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Commercial Television

The Media Act does not allow for commercial broadcasters to enter the Ether. But that same law allows foreign channels to be send through cable.
In 1989, before commercial television was legally allowed in the Netherlands, RTL 4 began broadcasting from its base in Luxembourg. The channel originated in Luxembourg but it was primarily funded by Dutch commercial money. The Media Authority started an investigation and found that the channel was foreign, even though its target audience was Dutch. In the first year RTL 4 captured 25% of the whole audience and the public channels lost a lot of money.
The government started thinking about commercial channels in the Dutch Ether and in 1992 the Media Act was amended to allow Dutch commercial broadcasting.
In 1993 the brother of RTL 4, RTL 5 started broadcasting from Luxembourg.
In 1995 these two broadcasters were joined by SBS-6, TV-10, The Music Factory (TMF) and the former public broadcasting organization Veronica. In 1998 TV-10 was taken over by FOX and in March 1999 Net 5, the second SBS-6 broadcaster, began transmitting programs. RTL 4, RTL 5 and Veronica together form the Holland Media Group; between them they hold a market share averaging 40 per cent.

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