They are opposites in everything, but both exponents of the zeitgeist. Where Ongehoord Nederland goes to war against everything that smacks of woke, Omroep Zwart wants to make the media landscape more diverse and inclusive. And where Arnold Karskens’ broadcaster flew off the starting blocks with an afternoon program that led to commotion and anger practically every week, the first months of aspiring broadcaster Zwart passed silently. Only this week, five months after entering the public system, did the first program of the brainchild of Akwasi and Gianni Cave appear on television, Stage Black†
The contours of what the two broadcasters want to add to the existing programming in the coming years are now visible. Ongehoord Nederland, founded by former war correspondent Karskens, offers a platform to politicians and opinion makers of a (radical) right-wing signature. In the program Unheard of Newswhich can be seen every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, especially politicians from the PVV, Forum for Democracy and Group van Haga, as well as opinion makers and scientists from the right-wing conservative corner.
From the very first broadcast Unheard of News controversial. Complaints were received at the NPO Ombudsman about the spread of disinformation and racism, including because of an item in which a reporter asked asylum seekers on the street whether they had paid for their bicycle. The Ombudsman’s inquiry is expected sometime in June.
This month, eight political groups in the House of Representatives demanded action from State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media) because Flemish politician Filip Dewinter spouted ‘uncontroversially a population theory’ in a broadcast. According to this conspiracy theory, Western society is slowly being replaced by (mostly Muslim) immigrants with a non-Western background.
Uslu said she understands the concerns about the broadcaster, but also pointed out that “the independence of broadcasters is a great asset”, in which politics should not interfere. According to the State Secretary, Ongehoord Nederland does have to comply with the Media Act and journalistic codes. Her two-part response illustrates the great inconvenience of both the NPO and of politicians in The Hague with the arrival of Ongehoord Nederland.
Omroep Zwart opted for a less noisy entrance. In recent months, the broadcaster of Akwasi and Grot has been warm with two programs on Radio 1, both tucked away deep in the night. Their choice of subject reflects their mission of greater diversity, with many conversations about discrimination, racism, or ‘How do you make yourself vulnerable as a (black) man?’ They also ensure an inclusive workplace in front of and behind the scenes: both the presentation and the editorial staff consist of many people of color.
Every Friday evening for the next few weeks Stage Black can be seen on NPO3, a cultural program with an emphasis on ‘black music’: soul, jazz, hip-hop and gospel. The show is presented by Glen Faria and Veronica van Hoogdalem.
With the artists who are given a stage, sometimes well-known, more often unknown, Omroep Zwart fulfills the need to show ‘how much talent, creativity and positivism there is in our country’. However, the question remains whether a completely new broadcaster had to be set up for this. Could this program not also have been made by BNNVARA, for example?
It therefore seems unlikely that the criteria for joining the system will remain as they are. Aspiring broadcasters now need 50,000 more members plus a plan to prove they add to the existing offering.
As a result, Arie Slob, then Minister of Education, Culture & Science, had no choice but to grant Ongehoord Nederland and Omroep Zwart access to the public system, after the Culture Council, the Media Authority and the Dutch Public Broadcasting (NPO) ) saw no reason to refuse them.
It is now realized that this is an undesirable situation: there are too many broadcasters, and in the case of Ongehoord Nederland, the NPO and politicians are also struggling with the content.
Recently, the Council for Culture recommended limiting the number of broadcasters, for example by tightening the criteria for accession and by creating options for disbanding existing broadcasters. They could also merge into existing broadcasters.
The current system is a ‘dead end’, the Council concluded. And so Ongehoord Nederland and Omroep Zwart could just be the last two aspiring broadcasters that have entered the public system relatively easily.