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Ad-free Dutch public TV: A case of protecting the children?

As published earlier this year in our ARM Weekly, advertising on the Dutch public TV channels is facing rough times, at least if it is up to the Dutch Government.

Despite earlier protests from both NPO (Dutch public broadcaster) and the communication industry represented by advertisers and (advertising and media) agencies on the rumours regarding going dark on advertising, the Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science recently announced a push for abolishing advertising on NPO’s public stations before 8pm among other unpopular measures.

In his recent letter to the House of Representatives where he sets forth his vision on the future of the public broadcasting system, four scenarios have been mapped out of which the most rigorous one – full ad-free public broadcasting – would be unachievable, hence he is going for the scenario where advertising is prohibited totally online and on TV until 8pm. The main reason is to avoid as much commercial stimulus for minors as possible. The only exception to this will be advertising around sports events like the Olympics. Furthermore, NPO3 is supposed to become mainly ‘regional’ which will certainly affect the channel’s current younger profile. Remarkably, radio advertising is still allowed on all public channels all day. The timing of these measures is not clear yet; allegedly in 2021 but 2022 is probably more likely, if it were to happen at all of course.

As these plans obviously still need to pass all relevant ‘Houses’ in the Netherlands before it gets approved, the communication industry has already been pretty clear in its opinion on these new plans which they also expressed in a newspaper ad this week, titled: ‘Those who think an ad-free broadcaster is a good idea should read this first’.

General outtake of the ad: The Government is throwing away 100 million euros which eventually disappears in the deep pockets of RTL, Facebook, YouTube and other foreign media companies. Both financially and culturally ‘suicide’ in the eyes of the signatories of the ad. And obviously a big blow in the face of the Dutch ad community for losing an important advertising medium for reaching big groups of viewers. So, the idea for an ad-free public broadcaster may sound sympathetic but, in the end, consumers pay the price.

All Response Media viewpoint

Obviously, we are not in favour of having advertising just about eliminated from Dutch public TV, especially for the older target audiences who watch a lot of NPO in the daytime. In our opinion, the Minister’s arguments for protecting the delicate souls of children doesn’t make any sense considering they watch YouTube and all other online channels where they get their share of advertising anyway. And the same is the case for all the other thousands of ad contacts we consume every day through other offline media channels. Therefore, abolishing advertising on public TV during the daytime will only mean we will be missing out on good programming which usually leads to good campaign results. Let’s hope these plans perish along the way.

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