New 3FM boss is not popular with his plan for an optimistic station: ‘It is much needed’

The studio of NPO 3FM.Image ANP / ANP

No no no, says station manager Menno de Boer with great certainty, pop station (and child of concern) NPO 3FM has no ambition at all to imitate the commercial market leaders Q Music and Radio 538. ‘Q and 538 already fill the hit radio segment excellently. First and foremost, 3FM wants to be a passionate station where music is central.’

The announcement of a new programming on 3FM on Wednesday led to a commotion on social media, especially in circles of pop journalists and musicians. Some of the reactions were scornful, partly because of the arrival of veteran Eddy Keur (62) to the channel.

The DJs Frank van der Lende and Sander Hoogendoorn and the duo Rob Janssen/Wijnand Speelman will be deployed at other times from 12 September. The NPO also announced the return of Barend van Deelen (Radio 538).

The real commotion only followed later in the day, after the VPRO announced on its own authority and without the press release that the evening program 3 for 12 Radio will be deleted from January 2023. The program is the figurehead of a progressive, cross-media platform of new pop music. The VPRO said it was astonished about the intervention.

Loud protests were also heard in the caravan of followers. ‘Content over viewing and listening figures, that should always be the consideration at the NPO’, tweeted music journalist Leo Blokhuis angrily. ‘Incomprehensible that this choice is now being made.’ He got a lot of acclaim.

Menno de Boer (43) started his work as channel manager of 3FM in May of this year. He earned his spurs mainly on commercial stations, Radio 538 and SLAM! among other. He is the fourth channel manager in 7 years. 3FM has been struggling with a downturn for years. The market share has shrunk by 75 percent since the turn of the century and 3FM is in twelfth place on the list of best-listened stations.

De Boer’s objective: ‘More impact and an increase in reach.’ His conclusion after a few months of work: ‘We perform below par in almost all periods. So yes, I think it’s good to make sharp choices. One thing I know for sure: if we left everything as it was, we would achieve nothing. We have a stable group of listeners, about 750 to 800 thousand people a week, but we want more impact. Also for the starting bands, also for Dutch pop music.’

He is discussing with the VPRO how 3for12 the transmitter can support, not necessarily linear, but also online and with video. De Boer aims for cooperation with the other broadcasters. It fits with the ‘integrated approach’ he has in mind with 3FM. ‘It goes much further than that one time slot in the evenings’.

The different islands, broadcasters, must be brought together. What De Boer calls the ‘tone of voice’ must be consistent. ‘We are one public broadcaster, aren’t we, with one mission and one task. This is a joint project aimed at getting 3FM back into growth mode. I approach the 3FM brand from a mentality. How can we distinguish ourselves? Then it’s about everything, from jingles to the presenters and from music formats to the marketing image. That integrated approach is desperately needed.’

The tone is becoming more optimistic, says De Boer. ‘The station had gone a bit too far in its social involvement and concern about the world of tomorrow. Many people listen to radio for the music. Radio also offers scattering, an escape route. 3FM wants to be the station that shows bright spots, even if life is not always beautiful.’

There is also plenty of room for innovative music in the new programming, he says. ‘3FM remains the station for new music, and we take that seriously. But at the same time we want to offer a large group of listeners comfort and recognisability, in a sharp and adventurous way’.

And no, the commotion didn’t hit the station manager. “I understand the fuss and emotions. This does not happen without a struggle, but it is badly needed.’