Dutch programme councils to go
Published: 08.59 Europe/London, June 22, 2011 by Robert Briel
The Dutch government plans to abolish the system of so-called Programme Councils for cable operators (Kabelraden) in 2014, according to a ‘Mediabrief’ sent to the Dutch Parliament.

At the moment, these councils decide which channels are included in a cablenet’s basic analogue bouquets. All Dutch public channels have must-carry status, as well as two Dutch language channels from Belgian public broadcaster VRT – this accounts for at least six analogue channels. The councils can decide on the remaining nine channels as by law they are entitled to select 15 channels.

In a letter to parliament the Dutch government said: “The discontinuation of the contribution to Kabelraden.nl from 2014 is related to the draft law on distribution. The new system has no role for programme councils and therefore no role for Kabelraden.nl. The House of Representatives will be informed on this subject in a separate letter on distribution. For now I assume that laws will be in force in 2014.”

The role of the councils is controversial, as they are not democratically elected but formed through a system of co-opting. In some regions the councils angered viewers by proposing to remove popular Dutch channels in favour of ethnic broadcasters, such as Turkish or Greek channels.

With the decreased importance of analogue cable distribution, cable operators are now moving all ethnic channels to basic digital and want to keep analogue only for the mainstream Dutch broadcasters.

At Kabelraden.nl, the national umbrella organisation of the councils, they want to expand their influence to digital tiers – many viewers are upset when channels just disappear and they have no influence on the choice of channels.